Day-O (The Banana Boat Song)

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"Day-O (The Banana Boat Song)"
Single by Harry Belafonte
from the album Calypso
LanguageJamaican Patois
StudioGrand Ballroom, Webster Hall, New York City
LabelRCA Victor
Songwriter(s)Traditional, arranged: Harry Belafonte, William Attaway, Lord Burgess
Harry Belafonte singles chronology
"Mary's Boy Child"
"Day-O (The Banana Boat Song)"
"Hold 'Em Joe"
Portrait of Harry Belafonte, Almanac, 18 February 1954

"Day-O (The Banana Boat Song)" is a traditional Jamaican folk song. The song has mento influences, but it is 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 best-known version was released by American singer Harry Belafonte in 1956 (originally titled "Banana Boat (Day-O)") 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 recorded by Shirley Bassey in 1957 for her 1959 album The Bewitching Miss Bassey.


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 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.[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.


Notable covers[edit]

Parodies and alternate lyrics[edit]

  • "Banana Boat (Day-O)" a parody 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". Freberg's version was popular and received much radio airplay; Harry Belafonte reportedly disliked the parody.[6] 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."
  • In 1959 the Italian singer Gino Latilla sings a version in Neapolitan entitled 'E banane (Bananas), text by Carla Boni (Cetra, SP 57).
  • 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.[7]
  • The Serbian comedy rock band the Kuguars, consisting of famous Serbian actors, covered the song in 1998, with lyrics in Serbian 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".
  • 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.
  • For an ad campaign that started in 1991, now-defunct Seattle-based department store chain Bon Marche used a version of the song with alternate lyrics in their commercials.[8]
  • In November 2019, the Stephen Colbert show modified the lyrics to make fun of Mike Pompeo, saying "Pompe-O, Pompe-O. Hearing come and I wanna go home." and continuing with "Clearly we all knew of quid pro quo", "We were all aware of the Ukraine deal", "Soon Mr. Adam man will issue him subpoena", "Run Mr. Flabby Man, Run back to Kansas", with each line followed by "Hearing come and I wanna go home."[9]

Samples and interpolations[edit]

  • Chilean program 31 minutos used the song "Arwrarwrirwrarwro" by Bombi which was based on "Day-O (The Banana Boat Song)".[10]
  • Jason Derulo’s song “Don’t Wanna Go Home” heavily samples Day-O (The Banana Boat Song). [11]

In media and politics[edit]

Justin Trudeau blackface incident[edit]

On September 18, 2019, Justin Trudeau, the Prime Minister of Canada, admitted to singing "Day-O" while wearing blackface makeup and an afro wig at a talent show when he was in high school at Collège Jean-de-Brébeuf.[16]


  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. ISBN 978-0253116727. Retrieved 1 September 2018 – via Google Books.
  5. ^ "Official Charts - Shirley Bassey - The Banana Boat Song". Retrieved 2016-08-22.
  6. ^ "Show 18 – Blowin' in the Wind: Pop discovers folk music. [Part 1] : UNT Digital Library". 1969-05-25. Retrieved 2010-09-24.
  7. ^ "Trio bei Bio". YouTube. 2011-11-16. Retrieved 2016-08-22.
  8. ^ Banel, Feliks. "The unlikely lasting legacy, melody from the Bon Marché". Retrieved 17 September 2018.
  9. ^ "Stephen Colbert Taunts Mike Pompeo With a Goodbye Calypso Tune". November 23, 2019.
  10. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2017-07-25. Retrieved 2017-08-08.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  11. ^ "6. Jason's 2011 Single 'Don't Wanna Go Home' May Sound A Bit Familiar!". Capital. Retrieved 2021-08-26.
  12. ^ Evens, Nick (March 31, 2018). "Why The Day-O Scene In Beetlejuice Was Difficult To Shoot". CinemaBlend. Retrieved October 15, 2020.
  13. ^ "VIDEO: The BEETLEJUICE Cast Performs 'Day-O (The Banana Boat Song) / The Whole Being Dead Thing' at the TONY AWARDS". BroadwayWorld. June 10, 2019. Retrieved October 15, 2020.
  14. ^ Sava, Oliver (May 15, 2017). "Legends Of Tomorrow shoots for the moon with one of its best episodes". The A.V. Club. Retrieved October 15, 2020.
  15. ^ Caruso, Nick (October 14, 2020). "The Amazing Race Season 32 Premiere Recap: Goat to the Finish". TVLine. Retrieved October 15, 2020.
  16. ^ "Justin Trudeau Admits to Also Wearing Blackface 'Makeup' in High School Following TIME Report". Time. Retrieved September 19, 2019.

External links[edit]