Day-O (The Banana Boat Song)

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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
Released 1956
Format Vinyl record (7", 10")
Genre Mento
Length 3:02
Label RCA

"Day-O (The Banana Boat Song)" is a traditional Jamaican mento folk song, the best-known version of which was sung by Harry Belafonte and an alternate version interspersed with another Jamaican folk song, "Hill and Gully Rider", by The Tarriers—later covered by Dame Shirley Bassey. Despite the song's mento influences, "Day-O (The Banana Boat Song)" is widely known as an example of 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.


The song was originally 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); with each set lyric there would be a response from the workers but using many different sets of lyrics, some possibly improvised on the spot. The first recorded version was done by Trinidadian singer Edric Connor and his band "Edric Connor and the Caribbeans" in 1952, on the album Songs From Jamaica; the song was called "Day Dah Light".[2] Belafonte based his version on Edric Connor's 1952 and Louise Bennett's 1954 recordings.[3]

In 1955, 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 by far the 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 with the first star 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 of it to the folk band The Tarriers. They recorded a version of that song that mixed in the chorus of another Jamaican folk song, "Hill and Gully Rider", and released it, spawning what became their biggest hit. It outdid Belafonte's original on the pop charts, reaching number four. This version was re-recorded by Shirley Bassey in 1957, and 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) are sometimes credited as the writers of the song, perhaps because their version of the song, which mixed in another song, was an original creation.

Covers and other uses[edit]

  • "Banana Boat (Day-O)" by Stan Freberg, produced in the 1950s by Capitol Records, features ongoing disagreement between an enthusiastic lead singer and a bongo-playing beatnik (Peter Leeds) who "don't dig loud noises" and had the catchphrase "You're too loud, man". When he hears the lyric about the "deadly black taranch-la" (actually the highly venomous Brazilian wandering spider, commonly dubbed "banana spider"), the beatnik protests, "Don't sing about spiders, man! Like, I don't dig spiders".[6]
  • Sarah Vaughan recorded the song for Mercury Records in 1956.
  • Barry Frank released a version for Bell in 1957[7]
  • Children's singer Raffi has performed the song in concert, replacing the line "I work all night on a drink of rum" with "I work all night 'til the morning come", and the line "Hide the deadly black taranch-la" with "A beautiful bunch o' ripe banana!" He also recorded this song on his 1980 album, Baby Beluga.
  • Japanese singer Joe Yamanaka covered the song in 1984


  1. ^ Profile of Irving Burgie,
  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. 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
  6. ^ "Show 18 – Blowin' in the Wind: Pop discovers folk music. [Part 1] : UNT Digital Library". Pop Chronicles. 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]