Yes! We Have No Bananas
|"Yes! We Have No Bananas"|
|Written by||Frank Silver
|Original artist||Eddie Cantor|
|Recorded by||Billy Jones, Arthur Hall, Irving Kaufman, Benny Goodman, Spike Jones & His City Slickers|
"Yes! We Have No Bananas" is a novelty song by Frank Silver and Irving Cohn from the 1922 Broadway revue Make It Snappy. Sung by Eddie Cantor in the revue, the song became a major hit in 1923 (placing No. 1 for five weeks) when it was recorded by Billy Jones, Arthur Hall, Irving Kaufman, and others. It was covered later by Benny Goodman and his Orchestra, Spike Jones & His City Slickers, and many more. It also inspired a follow-up song, "I've Got the Yes! We Have No Bananas Blues", recorded by Billy Jones and others in 1923.
The song is usually attributed to a banana shortage caused by blight in Brazil. But the town of Lynbrook on Long Island, New York, claims the songwriters composed it there and that the catchphrase "Yes! We have no bananas" was coined by Jimmy Costas, a local Greek American greengrocer. However, a 1923 article in the Chicago Tribune states that the phrase originated in Chicago in 1920. Cartoonist Thomas A. Dorgan (1877–1929) is also credited with inventing and/or popularizing the phrase.
The song was the theme of the Outdoor Relief protests in Belfast in 1932. These were a unique example of Protestants and Catholics in Northern Ireland protesting together, and the song was used because it was one of the few non-sectarian songs that both communities knew. The song lent its title to a book about the depression in Belfast.
The term has been resurrected on many occasions, including in during rationing in the United Kingdom in World War II, when the British Government banned import of bananas for five years (a particularly harsh act for both supplier and consumer because the British Empire had a trading agreement or cartel with banana producers from the Windward Islands in the Caribbean). Shop owners put signs stating "Yes, we have no bananas" in their shop windows in keeping with the war spirit.
The song also appeared in the popular Archie Comics and was mentioned in the 1939 film Only Angels Have Wings and the 1954 movie Sabrina. It appears as a leitmotif in The Comic, often to underscore serious moments in the life of the film's protagonist (played by Dick Van Dyke). In The English Patient, a few verses are sung as a joke. The song was often used by singer and comedian Jimmy Durante on The Jimmy Durante Show in the 1950's and 1960's. The song was also subject to parody in The Muppet Show, sung by various anthropomorphic fruits and vegetables. A German version, "Ausgerechnet Bananen", was featured in Billy Wilder's 1961 slapstick comedy One, Two, Three, played by an over-the-hill dance band at a drab East Berlin hotel bar. In the 1970s, Harry Chapin used this phrase in the chorus to his song "30,000 Pounds of Bananas". In the Simpsons episode "Bart's Girlfriend", Homer briefly sings, and then laments, the song. More recently, the phrase was used in 2006 when Cyclone Larry destroyed a large portion of Australia's banana crop, leading to a shortage for most of the year.
The song was the subject of a column by Sigmund Spaeth, who suggested that the melody could have been derived from a combination of parts of other songs including the Hallelujah Chorus from Messiah by Handel, "My Bonnie Lies Over The Ocean", "I Dreamt I Dwelt in Marble Halls", "Aunt Dinah's Quilting party" and Cole Porter's "An Old-Fashioned Garden".
Substituting the original lyrics from those to the appropriate melodic phrases you get:
- Hallelujah, Bananas! Oh, bring back my Bonnie to me
- I dreamt that I dwelt in marble halls—the kind that you seldom see
- I was seeing Nellie home, to an old-fashioned garden: but,
- Hallelujah, Bananas! Oh, bring back my Bonnie to me! 
Spaeth subsequently repeated his argument as an expert witness.
- Gros Michel banana – banana cultivar blighted by Panama disease and said to be the inspiration for the song.
- CD liner notes: Chart-Toppers of the Twenties, 1998 ASV Ltd.
- Can This Fruit Be Saved?
- "Peelings on the Pavement". Chicago Daily Tribune. July 23, 1923. p. 6. OCLC 1554151.
- Devlin, Paddy, Yes, We Have No Bananas: Outdoor Relief in Belfast, 1920-39.
- Reader's Digest, Treasury of Best Loved Songs (1972), The Reader's Digest Association, Inc., LCCN 71-183858
- Koeppel, Dan (19 June 2005). "Can This Fruit Be Saved?". Popsci.com. Retrieved 2010-07-12.