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Harry Belafonte: Five Essential Songs

From ‘Day-O’ to ‘Man Smart (Woman Smarter),’ his legacy was one-of-a-kind

Harry Belafonte’s lifetime of work as a civil-rights activist loomed so large in his later years that it can sometimes be easy to forget what a singular legacy he had as a musician. No one had ever sold one million copies of an album before Belafonte did it with Calypso in 1956 — in that sense alone, he paved the way for everyone from the Beatles to Drake. With his polished reinterpretations of traditional Caribbean songs, including ones from his parents’ home country of Jamaica, he enriched the mid-century folk revival beyond measure, and his unprecedented success helped open doors for generations of musicians who came after him. Belafonte’s death at age 96 closes one of the most remarkable careers in pop history. Here are five classic songs that show his impact.

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