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 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.


The song originated as a Jamaican folk song. 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 probably created around the second half of the nineteenth century or the first half of twentieth century, where the there was a rise of the banana trade in Jamaica.

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".[1] Belafonte based his version on Connor's 1952 and Louise Bennett's 1954 recordings.[2]

In 1955, American singer/songwriters Lord Burgess and William Attaway wrote a version of the lyrics for the Colgate Comedy Hour, in which the song was performed by Harry Belafonte.[3] 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 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.[4] 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]

  • "Banana Boat (Day-O)" by Stan Freberg, released in 1957 by Capitol Records, features ongoing disagreement between an enthusiastic Jamaican lead singer and a bongo-playing beatnik (Peter Leeds) who "don't dig loud noises" and has 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, "No, man! Don't sing about spiders, I mean, oooo! like I don't dig spiders".[5] Stan Freberg's version was the basis for the TV advert for the UK chocolate bar Trio in the mid-1980s.
  • Sarah Vaughan recorded the song for Mercury Records in 1956.
  • The Fontane Sisters mimicked The Tarriers version in a recording of the song for Dot Records in 1956. It charted to #13 US in 1957.
  • Barry Frank released a version for Bell in 1957[6]
  • Jimmie Rodgers recorded the song for Dot Records which was released in September, 1963.[7]
  • Dutch comedian André van Duin released his version in 1972 called Het bananenlied: the banana song. This songs ask repetitively why bananas are bent. It reaches the conclusion that if the bananas weren't bent they wouldn't fit into their peels.
  • Jamaican singer Shaggy recorded a dancehall version for his 1995 album Boombastic.
  • 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.
  • The Kidsongs Kids sing this song on "I'd Like to Teach the World to Sing". There is also an instrumental outro as heard on CDs and cassettes.
  • Jason Derulo sampled the song in "Don't Wanna Go Home".
  • American rapper Lil Wayne samples the line "6 foot, 7 foot, 8 foot bunch" for the hook of the song "6 Foot 7 Foot", together with the line "Stack Banana" which is repeated throughout the song.
  • The Mother Goose Club features an edited version in the first episode.
  • The Belafonte version was used in the 1988 film Beetlejuice in a now-famous scene in which dinner guests are supernaturally compelled to dance along to the song by the film's protagonists.
  • Hasil Adkins recorded a previously unreleased rockabilly version of this song that was included on the 1990 Norton Records album, Peanut Butter Rock and Roll.
  • Belafonte's version was used in a 1990s ABC ident featuring the Bananas in Pyjamas.
  • Fleksnes Fataliteter The Norwegian comedy character Marve Fleksnes uses the phrase "Day-O" whenever he sees a situation which he can benefit from, or when agitated or insecure.
  • The Swedish humor show Rally, which aired between 1995 and 2002 in Sveriges Radio P3 made a version called "Hey Mr. Taliban", which speaks about Osama Bin Laden with the lyrics "Hey Mister Tallyman, tally me banana/Daylight come and me wan' go home" replaced by "Hey Mister Taliban, In Afghanistan/US Come and you wanna go home" or "Hey Mister Taliban! Osama Bin Laden" and "Day-O! Daaaaay-O! Daylight come and me wan' go home" is replaced by "Day-O! Daaaay-O! Missile come and you wanna go home".
  • Belafonte sang the song in an episode of The Muppet Show
  • German dance band Scooter made a cover version of the song in 2003. Originally, it was intended to release as a Ratty track but the plan cancelled and the song released under the name "Beetle Juice pres. Rick Maniac & Dr. Loop".
  • Country music artist Neal McCoy references the song in his song "Hillbilly Rap" off his self-titled album.
  • The Serbian comedy rock band The Kuguars, consisting of famous Serbian actors, covered the song in 1998, with lyrics in Serbian language dedicated to the, at the time, Yugoslav national soccer team player Dejan "Dejo" Savićević. The song became a nationwide hit, and a promotional video for the song had been recorded.
  • Australian children's entertainers The Wiggles cover it in their 2008 album You Make Me Feel Like Dancing.
  • Lobo's 1981 medley "The Caribbean Disco Show" uses the song's chorus recurrently.
  • Jamaican singer Frankie Paul used the song's chorus for a dancehall song.
  • In Ava DuVernay's film Selma, Rev. Hosea Williams (played by Wendell Pierce) starts a chorus of the song at a meeting where it is announced that Harry Belafonte will join the final and successful third of the Selma to Montgomery marches. Belafonte appears among the marchers in newsreel footage shown during the end credits of the film.
  • In Thomas & Friends Sodor's Legend of the Lost Treasure, Skiff the Railboat (Jamie Campbell Bower) sings a part of the chorus after he sees the sun comes up, whilst calling Sailor John (John Hurt) out that it is time to go home.((cn))
  • In their 1994 album, the comedy music group Grup Vitamin included a Turkish cover of the song parodying the macho culture in the country.
  • The Kinks did a semi-serious version on Everybody's in Show-Biz


  1. ^ Mento Music. Edric Connor, Louise Bennett & Jamaican Folk Music
  2. ^ 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]
  3. ^ Garth L. Green, Philip W. Scher, Trinidad carnival: the cultural politics of a transnational festival 
  4. ^ Bassey on
  5. ^ "Show 18 - Blowin' in the Wind: Pop discovers folk music. [Part 1] : UNT Digital Library". Pop Chronicles. 1969-05-25. Retrieved 2010-09-24. 
  6. ^ "Barry Frank recorded or participated in at least the following 54 song(s)". Bell Records. Retrieved 8 October 2012. 
  7. ^ Discogs link

External links[edit]