♫ The Banana Boat Song ♫ (Redux)

Yeah, yeah, I know I played this in February of last year, but bear with me here.  First, a lot of you liked the song, said it made you smile and that it was a feel-good song, and we surely do need one of those ’bout now.  And second, I’m really tired tonight.  I was digging into my music stash, and this came up … it set my toes to tapping, and I thought … AHA!  Then I found I’d already played it, but frankly, I’m so bone-tired that it’s either this or no music, so I figured this was the better alternative.  I do, however, have some trivia to offer that I didn’t have last time.

This is a traditional Jamaican song that was sung by dock workers who worked throughout the night loading bananas onto ships. It’s daylight, and they look forward to the arrival of the Tallyman (who will take inventory) so they can go home.

Belafonte’s version used lyrics adapted by Irving Burgie and William Attaway.  Burgie, sometimes credited as “Lord Burgess,” is a popular Caribbean composer. Attaway was a novelist and songwriter who was friends with Belafonte. Burgie and Attaway wrote most of the songs on the Calypso album.

This remains the most popular mainstream calypso song, and the song most identified with Belafonte. It was not the first calypso hit in America, however. That honor goes to The Andrews Sisters – three white girls from Minnesota – who had a #1 in 1945 with “Rum and Coca-Cola,” a song written and originally recorded by the Trinidadian musician Lord Invader.

In 1956, folk singer Bob Gibson, who had traveled to Jamaica and heard the song, taught his version to the folk band The Tarriers. They recorded a version of that song that incorporated 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. 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.

Day-O (The Banana Boat Song)
Harry Belafonte

Day-o, day-o
Daylight come and me wan’ go home
Day, me say day, me say day, me say day
Me say day, me say day-o
Daylight come and me wan’ go home

Work all night on a drink of rum
Daylight come and me wan’ go home
Stack banana ’til de mornin’ come
Daylight come and me wan’ go home

Come, mister tally man, tally me banana
Daylight come and me wan’ go home
Come, mister tally man, tally me banana
Daylight come and me wan’ go home

Lift six foot, seven foot, eight foot bunch
Daylight come and me wan’ go home
Six foot, seven foot, eight foot bunch
Daylight come and me wan’ go home

Day, me say day-o
Daylight come and me wan’ go home
Day, me say day, me say day, me say day
Daylight come and me wan’ go home

A beautiful bunch o’ ripe banana
Daylight come and me wan’ go home
Hide the deadly black tarantula
Daylight come and me wan’ go home

Lift six foot, seven foot, eight foot bunch
Daylight come and me wan’ go home
Six foot, seven foot, eight foot bunch
Daylight come and me wan’ go home

Day, me say day-o
Daylight come and me wan’ go home
Day, me say day, me say day, me say day
Daylight come and me wan’ go home

Come, mister tally man, tally me banana
Daylight come and me wan’ go home
Come, mister tally man, tally me banana
Daylight come and me wan’ go home

Day-o, day-o
Daylight come and me wan’ go home
Day, me say day, me say day, me say day
Me say day, me say day-o
Daylight come and me wan’ go home

Songwriters: Dave Tanner / William Attaway / Harry Belafonte / Lord Burgess
Day-O (The Banana Boat Song) lyrics © Semi, Music Sales Corporation

26 thoughts on “♫ The Banana Boat Song ♫ (Redux)

  1. This one takes me right back to my childhood, such a soulful and smooth rendition. Good choice Jill.
    Two notes:
    1. Have you heard Stan Freberg’s version?
    2. Back in the late 1980s I had my own verse when it came to the Tarantula:
    ‘Watch out for the Margaret Thatcher
    She’ll take yer job,
    And your social security she’ll snatcha
    Daylight come and me wanna go home…’

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I remember this clearly (and always thought that Rum and Coca Cola was a superstrange choice for the Andrews Sisters to sing, with its hints of poverty and racism and sexwork and all). I used to also love another one by him, and am spacin gon it right now–OH! ‘Carry me ackee, go a Linstead market, non dem quatty worth sell–‘

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Vivid memories are associated with this song. My sixth-grade teacher, Mrs. Fogle, expanded my awareness in so many ways, like reading “Flowers for Algernon” to us every day, and teaching us this song. I really got into singing it, and she selected me to lead the class in it when we presented it at a school assembly. I was proud and thrilled (and a bit scared) so you see why vivid memories come along with this song.

    I’ll never forget Mrs. Fogle, and I’ll always be grateful to her. Best teacher I ever had (and I had several). Thanks for stirring the embers of my memories. Cheers

    Liked by 2 people

    • What wonderful memories!!! Thumbs up to Mrs. Fogle … I well remember “Flowers for Algernon” with fondness. ‘Twas my pleasure to bring those memories to the forefront … I’m glad they were happy ones! Cheers!

      Liked by 1 person

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