Thursday, May 23, 2024

RIP Towering Legend Harry Belafonte, 96, Famed Civil Rights Activist, Was Planning First Ever Foundation Gala Next Month for Wrongly Incarcerated Singer


Harry Belafonte made us all better people. Today he is gone after an extraordinary life, at age 96.

Harry was planning to attend The Belanfonte Family Foundation’s Inaugural Gala on May 4th in downtown New York. The Gala, which I’m sure will go ahead, honors wrongly incarcerated musical artist Jimmy Dennis. Dennis spent 25 years on Death Row before being released in 2017. Harry never missed an opportunity to right wrongs and gave his support in person as much as he could– which was a lot. The Gala will now be a tremendous memorial to Belafonte and a celebration of his life’s work.

Tributes are pouring in all over social media. Sidney Poitier, who left us last year, was his best friend. Tony Bennett, 93, wrote on Twitter: “Met Harry in 1948 and knew then he would be a huge star. More than that, he fought for social justice & equality and never, ever gave up. Our dearest of friends, he will be deeply missed by myself and so many for all he contributed to the world.”

Belafonte broke many barriers. One of the biggest was a TV special in 1969 with Julie Andrews. Nothing like this had been done before– a Black man and white woman performing together on national TV. Here it is, below. And of course the “Day O The Banana Boat Song” will echo through time.

Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman began his Showbiz411 column in April 2009 after 10 years with Fox News, where he created the Fox411 column. His movie reviews are carried by Rotten Tomatoes, and he is a member of both the movie and TV branches of the Critics Choice Awards. His articles have appeared in dozens of publications over the years including New York Magazine, where he wrote the Intelligencer column in the mid 90s and covered the OJ Simpson trial, and Fox News (when it wasn't so crazy) where he covered Michael Jackson. He is also the writer and co-producer of "Only the Strong Survive," a selection of the Cannes, Sundance, and Telluride Film festivals, directed by DA Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus.

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