8 Harry Belafonte Hits That Made Him Famous

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Many of the Harry Belafonte hits left an enduring mark in the music industry. He was born in New York City to a Caribbean immigrant on March 1, 1927. His professional career started with the musical Carmen Jones and soon, he was topping the charts with songs like ‘Jump in the Line’ and ‘The Banana Bot Song (Day-0)’. 

Belafonte also championed several political and social causes and received many prestigious awards, including two Grammy Awards and one Emmy Award. The music legend passed on 26 April 2023, at age 96. Continue reading to discover the eight Harry Belafonte Hits that made him famous.

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Banana Boat Song (Day-O)

Day O (Banana Boat Song). Credit: Official YouTube channel for Harry Belafonte

Harry Belafonte released ‘Banana Boat (Day-0)’ in 1956 which later became one of his signature songs. The Jamaican American singer described Banana Bot as a song about struggle, black folks in a colonized life performing the most gruelling work. 

Harry’s Banana Bot Song was really popular during the 90s. It reached number five on the billboard chart in 1957. Belafonte’s Banana Boat song is available on Amazon

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Jump in the Line (Shake, Senora)

Harry Belafonte – Jump In The Line (Lyrics). Credit: @iconiccountry7757

The song lived for years before reaching Belafonte. It’s a Calypso song and Lord Kitchener originally composed it. However, it became popular in a version Harry Belafonte released in 1961. 

Island in the Sun

Released in May 1957, ‘Island in the Sun’ is a Calypso song composed by Irving Burgie and Harry Belafonte. Harry later performed the song for the movie ‘Island in the Sun’ and his musical album ‘Belafonte Sings of the Caribbean’ in 1957 respectively. 

Matilda

‘Matilda’, sometimes spelled Mathilda, is a Calypso song. Harry’s first recording of ‘Matilda’ was on April 27, 1953. And he released the music as a single. 

He re-recorded the song for his second RCA Victor LP, Belafonte released in 1955. The song is among the songs that Belafonte often played at concerts and he encouraged his fans to sing along.

Jamaica Farewell

This is Jamaican-style folk music. Lord Burgess, an American halfborn and half-Barbadian composed the lyrics of the song. ‘Jamaica Farewell’ is about the beauties of the West Indian Island

Belafonte released his own version of the song in his 1956 Calypso album. And it reached number 14 on the Billboard Pop Chart.

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Mama Look a Boo Boo

Harry Belafonte, Trinidadian calypsonian Lord Melody, and Lord Burgess wrote the ‘Mama Look a Boo Boo’ song. However, Belafonte performed the song featuring Chorus Millard Thomas, Bob Corwin’s Orchestra, and Victor Messer on guitars. You can stream Mama Look a Boo Boo on Amazon

Man Smart, Woman Smarter

Harry Belafonte – Man Smart (Woman Smarter) (Official Audio). Credit: @harrybelafonte

Man Smart (Woman Smarter)’ is a Calypso song that’s credited to Charles Harris, F. Kuhn, D.L. Miller, and Norman Span. Musicians from many genres, including Chubby Checker, Belafonte, and Dr. Victor have recorded the song. 

Belafonte’s first three recordings of the song appeared in his bestselling album Calypso, which topped number one on the Billboard Top Pop Albums chart in 1956.

Mary’s Boy Child

Mary’s Boy Child Audio. Credit: @harrybelafonteofficial

This is a 1956 popular Christmas song. Jester Hairston composed the song and it was popularly played as a Christmas carol.

Harry Belafonte heard a choir performing the song and asked for permission to record it. He got the permission, recorded it in 1956, and released it as a single that same year. In 1957, he released it again in his album An Evening With Belafonte. This time he added more lyrics and made the song longer.

Harry Belafonte was a talented Caribbean-American singer, civil rights activist, and actor. He popularized Calypso music with a global audience in the 1950s and 1960s. His most famous album Calypso released in 1956 was the first million-selling LP by a single musician. You can stream the best Harry Belafonte hits on Amazon

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Uchenna Agwu
Uchenna Agwu
Hi there! I’m Uchenna Agwu, and I love to write. When I’m not writing, you can usually find me reading books or watching documentaries (I’m a bit of a nerd). But I also like to get out and explore – whether that means going on hikes or checking out new restaurants.

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