Day-O (The Banana Boat Song)

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"Day-O (The Banana Boat Song)"
Single by Harry Belafonte
from the album Calypso
FormatVinyl record (7", 10")
StudioGrand Ballroom, Webster Hall, New York City
LabelRCA Victor
Harry Belafonte singles chronology
"Mary's Boy Child"
"Day-O (The Banana Boat Song)"
"Hold 'Em Joe"

"Day-O (The Banana Boat Song)" is a traditional Jamaican folk song; the best-known version was released by American singer Harry Belafonte in 1956 and later became one of his signature songs. That same year The Tarriers released an alternative version that incorporated the chorus of another Jamaican folk song, "Hill and Gully Rider". The Tarriers version was later recorded by Shirley Bassey.

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. The lyrics describe how daylight has come, their 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 the twentieth century, where 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][3]

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.[4] Belafonte recorded the song for RCA Victor and 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.[5] 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.


Parodies and alternate lyrics[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".[9] Stan Freberg's version was the basis for the jingle for the TV advert for the UK chocolate bar Trio from the mid-1980s to the early to mid-1990s, the lyrics being, "Trio, Trio, I want a Trio and I want one now. Not one, not two, but three things in it; chocolatey biscuit and a toffee taste too."
  • Dutch comedian André van Duin released his version in 1972 called Het bananenlied: the banana song. This song asks repetitively why bananas are bent. It reaches the conclusion that if the bananas weren't bent they wouldn't fit into their peels.
  • German band Trio performed a parody where "Bommerlunder" (a German schnapps) substituted the words "daylight come" in the 1980s. In one rare occurrence, Trio and Harry Belafonte appeared in the same TV show, "Bio's Bahnhof", in 1982, with the latter watching Trio's act in disbelief.[10]
  • 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.
  • 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 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! Turn over 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".
  • Since 1988 British radio DJ and presenter Simon Mayo has used several variations of the song as jingles. This originated during Mayo's time as presenter of the Radio 1 Breakfast Show where the jingle was sung by fellow presenter Steve Wright and has continued on many of his shows since, including (since 2010) Mayo's Drivetime show on BBC Radio 2.
  • In 1988-89, Belafonte's children, David and Gina, parodied the song in a commercial about the Oldsmobile Toronado Trofeo. (David was singing "Trofeo" in the same style as "Day-O" in the song.)
  • A parody of this song was used in an E-Trade commercial that first aired on Super Bowl LII
  • Food manufacturer Kellogg's parodied the song in their 2001 television advertisement for their breakfast cereal Fruit 'n Fibre.
  • Now-defunct Seattle-based department store chain Bon Marche used a version of the song with alternate lyrics in their commercials.[11]

Samples and interpolations[edit]

  • Country music artist Neal McCoy references the song in his song "Hillbilly Rap" off his 1996 self-titled album.
  • Jamaican singer Frankie Paul used the song's chorus for a dancehall song.
  • 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.
  • Chilean program 31 minutos used the song "Arwrarwrirwrarwro" make a Bombi version of "Day-O (The Banana Boat Song)".[12]
  • Australian singer Gotye used portions of the song in his song "Heart's A Mess" from his album "Like Drawing Blood".[13]

In film and television[edit]


  1. ^ "Edric Connor, Louise Bennett and Jamaican Folk Music". Mento Music. Retrieved 2016-08-22.
  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)
  3. ^ "Frémeaux & Associés éditeur, La Librairie Sonore". 1932-06-19. Retrieved 2016-08-22.
  4. ^ Green, Garth L.; Scher, Philip W. (28 March 2007). "Trinidad Carnival: The Cultural Politics of a Transnational Festival". Indiana University Press. p. 186. Retrieved 1 September 2018 – via Google Books.
  5. ^ "ChartArchive - Shirley Bassey - The Banana Boat Song". Archived from the original on 2012-07-29. Retrieved 2016-08-22.CS1 maint: BOT: original-url status unknown (link)
  6. ^ "Barry Frank recorded or participated in at least the following 54 song(s)". Bell Records. Retrieved 8 October 2012.
  7. ^ "Jimmie Rodgers (2) - The Banana Boat Song (Vinyl)". Retrieved 2016-08-22.
  8. ^ "Discogs". Retrieved October 6, 2018.
  9. ^ "Show 18 – Blowin' in the Wind: Pop discovers folk music. [Part 1] : UNT Digital Library". Pop Chronicles. 1969-05-25. Retrieved 2010-09-24.
  10. ^ "Trio bei Bio". YouTube. 2011-11-16. Retrieved 2016-08-22.
  11. ^ Banel, Feliks. "The unlikely lasting legacy, melody from the Bon Marché". My Northwest. Retrieved 17 September 2018.
  12. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2017-07-25. Retrieved 2017-08-08.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
  13. ^ "Music JUNKEE". Retrieved 1 September 2018.
  14. ^ "'Legends of Tomorrow' Recap: Defying Gravity, Legends-Style". Entertainment Weekly. 15 March 2017. Retrieved 17 March 2017.

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