Day-O (The Banana Boat Song)

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"Day-O (The Banana Boat Song)"
Single by Harry Belafonte
from the album Calypso
Released1956
FormatVinyl record (7", 10")
GenreMento
Length3:02
LabelRCA
 
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"Day-O" redirects here. For the television film, see Day-O (film).
"Day-O (The Banana Boat Song)"
Single by Harry Belafonte
from the album Calypso
Released1956
FormatVinyl record (7", 10")
GenreMento
Length3:02
LabelRCA

"Day-O (The Banana Boat Song)" is a traditional Jamaican mento folk song; the best-known version was released by Jamaican-American singer Harry Belafonte in 1956 and later became one of his signature songs. That same year The Tarriers released an alternate version that incorporated the chorus of another Jamaican folk song, "Hill and Gully Rider". The Tarriers version was later recorded by Shirley Bassey. Other recordings were made of the song in 1956-1957, as well as later.

The song has mento influences, but "Day-O (The Banana Boat Song)" was commonly classified as an example of the better known calypso music. It is a work song, from the point of view of dock workers working the night shift loading bananas onto ships. Daylight has come, the shift is over, and they want their work to be counted up so that they can go home.

Origins[edit]

The song originated as a Jamaican folk song. Its popular version was adapted by Barbadian Irving Burgie.[1] It was thought to be sung by Jamaican banana workers, with a repeated melody and refrain (call and response); to each set lyric, the workers made a response. There were numerous versions of lyrics, some likely improvised on the spot by the singers.

The song was first recorded by Trinidadian singer Edric Connor and his band "Edric Connor and the Caribbeans" on the 1952 album Songs From Jamaica; the song was called "Day Dah Light".[2] Belafonte based his version on Connor's 1952 and Louise Bennett's 1954 recordings.[3]

In 1955, American singer/songwriters Irving Burgie and William Attaway wrote a version of the lyrics for the Colgate Comedy Hour, in which the song was performed by Harry Belafonte.[4] This is the version that is best known to listeners today, as it reached number five on the Billboard charts in 1957 and later became Belafonte's signature song. Side two of Belafonte's 1956 Calypso album opens with "Star O", a song referring to the day shift ending when the first star is seen in the sky. During recording, when asked for its title, Harry spells, "Day Done Light".

Also in 1956, folk singer Bob Gibson, who had travelled to Jamaica and heard the song, taught his version to the folk band The Tarriers. They recorded a version of that song thatincorporated the chorus of mixed in the chorus of "Hill and Gully Rider", another Jamaican folk song. This release became their biggest hit, reaching number four on the pop charts, where it outperformed Belafonte's version. The Tarriers' version was recorded by Shirley Bassey in 1957 and it became a hit in the United Kingdom.[5] The Tarriers, or some subset of the three members of the group (Erik Darling, Bob Carey and Alan Arkin, later better known as an actor) are sometimes credited as the writers of the song; their version combined elements of another song and was thus newly created.

Covers and other uses[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Profile of Irving Burgie, TotallyBarbados.com
  2. ^ Mento Music. Edric Connor, Louise Bennett & Jamaican Folk Music
  3. ^ The Louise Bennett version of Day O (The Banana Boat Song) is available and documented in both French and English on the Jamaica – Mento 1951–1958 album (2009). Its booklet is available online: [1]
  4. ^ Garth L. Green, Philip W. Scher, Trinidad carnival: the cultural politics of a transnational festival 
  5. ^ Bassey on Chartstats.com
  6. ^ "Show 18 - Blowin' in the Wind: Pop discovers folk music. [Part 1] : UNT Digital Library". Pop Chronicles. Digital.library.unt.edu. 1969-05-25. Retrieved 2010-09-24. 
  7. ^ "Barry Frank recorded or participated in at least the following 54 song(s)". Bell Records. Retrieved 8 October 2012. 

External links[edit]