The Banana Boat Song: 'Daylight come and me wan' go home ...'

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It is probably Harry Belafonte's most famous song.

And the man who wrote it said it came straight from Jamaica's banana-growing culture.

The tune, known formally as "The Banana Boat Song" and informally as "Day-o," was adapted by songwriter Irving Burgie from a Jamaican folk song after World War II.

Mr. Burgie, 81 and living in New York City, said the folk song was slower and had a steadier, non-calypso beat than his version because it was the work song banana boat loaders sang to get them through a long night of hauling the fruit from trucks to boats.

The workers would materialize on the docks whenever the boats arrived. Men and women together would hoist the heavy banana stalks onto their heads and walk them to the ships ("Lift six-foot, seven-foot, eight-foot bunch"). At the end of the night, a banana counter, known as a "tally man," would figure out how much each worker would be paid. ("Come, Mr. Tally Man, tally me banana; daylight come and me wan' go home.")

Mr. Burgie, who a few years ago wrote the lyrics to the national anthem of Barbados, crafted his calypso melodies while he was attending the Julliard School of Music after World War II. He began performing them with his own group, Lord Burgess and the Serenaders, in clubs in New York, Chicago and Los Angeles.

In the 1950s, NBC decided to go head-to-head with Ed Sullivan by creating a show called "Colgate Comedy Hour." It booked Mr. Belafonte for one of the segments, and his main writer found out about Mr. Burgie's work and introduced them. That TV appearance marked Mr. Belafonte's first performance of the tune.

In 1956, RCA released "Calypso," and Mr. Burgie wrote eight of the 11 songs, including "The Banana Boat Song" and "Jamaica Farewell," which became Mr. Belafonte's theme song.

"Calypso" became the first album in history to sell more than 1 million copies, Mr. Burgie said.

The Lyrics:

Day-o, day-ay-ay-o
Daylight come and he wan' go home
Day, he say day, he say day, he say day, he say day, he say
day-ay-ay-o
Daylight come and he wan' go home

Work all night on a drink a'rum
(Daylight come and he wan' go home)
Stack banana till thee morning come
(Daylight come and he wan' go home)

Come, Mr. Tally Mon, tally me banana
(Daylight come and he wan' go home)
Come, Mr. Tally Mon, tally me banana
(Daylight come and he wan' go home)

It's six foot, seven foot, eight foot, BUNCH!
(Daylight come and he wan' go home)
Six foot, seven foot, eight foot, BUNCH!
(Daylight come and he wan' go home)

Day, he say day-ay-ay-o
(Daylight come and he wan' go home)
Day, he say day, he say day, he say day,
He say day, he say day
(Daylight come and he wan' go home)

A beautiful bunch a'ripe banana
(Daylight come and he wan' go home)
Hide thee deadly black tarantula
(Daylight come and he wan' go home)

It's six foot, seven foot, eight foot, BUNCH!
(Daylight come and he wan' go home)
Six foot, seven foot, eight foot, BUNCH!
(Daylight come and he wan' go home)

Day, he say day-ay-ay-o
(Daylight come and he wan' go home)
Day, he say day, he say day, he say day,
He say day, he say day
(Daylight come and he wan' go home)

Come, Mr. Tally Mon, tally me banana
(Daylight come and he wan' go home)
Come, Mr. Tally Mon, tally me banana
(Daylight come and he wan' go home)

Day-o, day-ay-ay-o
(Daylight come and he wan' go home)
Day, he say day, he say day, he say day, he say day, he say
day-ay-ay-o
(Daylight come and he wan' go home)


Lyrics originally found at www.lyricsdir.com  
Click here to listen to an audio excerpt of Harry Belafonte's performance of The Banana Boat Song (From: The Essential Harry Belafonte (RCA) MP3 format)   


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