RIP, Harry Belafonte.
I have an admission to make: Harry Belafonte was the first singer I ever crushed on.
When I was a child, my parents had a large collection of LPs, and among the many singers we heard on those, the ones who stood out for me were Connie Francis, Pat Boone, Jim Reeves—and Harry Belafonte. I still remember a Belafonte album (Belafonte Sings of the Caribbean) we had, which was one of my favourites. This one was also present among the LPs at my maternal grandparents’ home in Kolkata, which we visited sometimes for Christmas. My mother’s father had worked for the Indian music giant HMV, so their home had a massive collection of LPs, with Belafonte front and centre. We didn’t just listen to his carols and hymns at Christmas; we listened to every song he’d made popular, from the soulful Jamaica Farewell (one of the first English language songs I learnt to sing) to hilarious ones like Matilda, Man Smart Woman Smarter, and the classic There’s a Hole in the Bucket (which, by the way, is also a favourite with my daughter: she and I sing it together and always end up having a good laugh).
I loved his voice. I thought the photo of him, smiling and so handsome, on the LP cover, showed that he didn’t just have the most fantastic voice, he was also easily the best-looking of all the singers.