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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"
Official audio
"Day-O (The Banana Boat Song)" on YouTube
"The Banana Boat Song"
Single by The Tarriers
from the album The Tarriers
LanguageJamaican Patois
B-side"No Hidin' Place"
LabelGlory Records
Songwriter(s)Alan Arkin, Bob Carey, Erik Darling
The Tarriers singles chronology
"The Banana Boat Song"
"Cindy, Oh Cindy"
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 call and response 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 Jamaican-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 call and response folk song, "Hill and Gully Rider". Both versions became simultaneously popular the following year, placing 5th and 6th on the 20 February 1957, US Top 40 Singles chart.[2] The Tarriers version was covered multiple times in 1956 and 1957, including by the Fontane Sisters, Sarah Vaughan, Steve Lawrence, and Shirley Bassey, all of whom charted in the top 40 in their respective countries.[3]

Belafonte described "Day-O" as "a song about struggle, about black people in a colonized life doing the most grueling work," in a 2011 interview with Gwen Ifill on PBS NewsHour. He said, "I took that song and honed it into an anthem that the world loved."


"The Banana Boat Song" likely originated around the beginning of the 20th century when the banana trade in Jamaica was growing. It was sung by Jamaican dockworkers, who typically worked at night to avoid the heat of the daytime sun. When daylight arrived, they expected their boss would arrive to tally the bananas so they could go home.[4]

The song was first recorded by Trinidadian singer Edric Connor and his band the Caribbeans on the 1952 album Songs from Jamaica; the song was called "Day Dah Light".[5] Belafonte based his version on Connor's 1952 and Louise Bennett's 1954 recordings.[6][7]

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.[8] 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 the Fontane Sisters, Sarah Vaughan, and Steve Lawrence in 1956, all of whom charted in the US Top 40, and by Shirley Bassey in 1957, whose recording became a hit in the United Kingdom.[9] 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.

Popular culture[edit]

Notable covers[edit]

Parodies and alternate lyrics[edit]

  • "Banana Boat (Day-O)", a parody by Stan Freberg and Billy May released in 1957 by Capitol Records, features ongoing disagreement between an enthusiastic Jamaican lead singer (played by Freberg) and a bongo-playing beatnik (played by 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, reaching number 25 on the US Top 40 charts in 1957,[11] and received much radio airplay; Harry Belafonte reportedly disliked the parody.[12] 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 with "Bommerlunder" (a German schnapps) substituted for the words "daylight come" in the 1980s.
  • The Serbian comedy rock band the Kuguars, composed of renowned Serbian actors, achieved widespread popularity with their 1998 cover of the song "Dejo majstore." Originally dedicated to the Yugoslav national soccer team player Dejan "Dejo" Savićević, the song's lyrics were in Serbian. This rendition quickly became a nationwide hit, garnering significant attention. Additionally, a promotional video was produced to accompany the song's release, further solidifying its status within the Serbian music scene.
  • In their 1994 album, the comedy music group Grup Vitamin included a Turkish cover of the song parodying the macho culture in the country.
  • 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 1991 Brazilian commercial used a parody of the song to promote their bubble gum brand "Bubbaloo Banana" with lyrics dedicated to the banana-flavoured candy
  • A parody of this song was used in an E-Trade commercial that first aired on Super Bowl LII.
  • Biscuit manufacturer Jacob's parodied the song in the 1980s for advertisements for the Trio biscuit bar, sung by an animated character called Suzy.
  • 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 The Bon Marché used a version of the song with alternate lyrics in their commercials.[13]
  • 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.
  • The Rockin Roll Morning show on KOMP 92.3 created a flash video called "Osama bin Laden Nowhere To Run - Nowhere To Hide" that features United States Secretary of State Colin Powell (who is himself of Jamaican descent) singing a parody of the song about Osama bin Laden getting bombed.
  • In November 2019, The Late Show with Stephen Colbert modified the lyrics to make fun of Mike Pompeo, saying "Pompe-O, Pompe-O. Hearing come and I wanna go home."[14]

Samples and interpolations[edit]

In media and politics[edit]

  • The original 1956 Belafonte recording is heard in the 1988 film Beetlejuice in a dinner scene in which the guests are supernaturally compelled to dance along to the song by the film's protagonists.[19] It was sung by Beetlejuice and Lydia in the first episode of the television animated series, and it appeared in the Broadway musical adaptation. It will appear in the film's upcoming sequel Beetlejuice Beetlejuice, which will be released on September 6, 2024.[20][21]
  • In the TV series The Muppet Show season 3 episode 14, Harry Belafonte performs the song accompanied by Fozzie Bear and other muppets. Fozzie Bear requests to be a tally man as identified in the lyrics of the song. Harry Belafonte explains what a tally man is as he proceeds to sing with other muppets accompanying singing the song's answer.
  • In the TV series Legends of Tomorrow season 2 episode 14 "Moonshot", the character Martin Stein abruptly starts singing the song to cause a distraction.[22]
  • During the first leg of the thirty-second season of the American version of The Amazing Race, contestants had to play a section of the song on a steelpan during a Roadblock challenge.[23]
  • In the Justin Trudeau blackface controversy, 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.[24]



Region Sales
Italy 370,000[25]


  1. ^ Stanley, Bob (2022). "Whipped Cream and Other Delights: Adventures in Beatleland". Let's Do It - The Birth of Pop Music: A History. New York. p. 564.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: location missing publisher (link)
  2. ^ "All US Top 40 Singles For 1957". Top40Weekly.com. 30 November 2013. Retrieved 6 January 2022.
  3. ^ a b Petrusich, Amanda (22 February 2017). "Harry Belafonte and the Social Power of Song". The New Yorker. Condé Nast. Retrieved 22 December 2021.
  4. ^ Harris, Karen. "Day-O: The Story of "The Banana Boat Song"". History Daily. Retrieved 2023-02-03.
  5. ^ "Edric Connor, Louise Bennett and Jamaican Folk Music". Mento Music. Retrieved 2016-08-22.
  6. ^ 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)
  7. ^ "Frémeaux & Associés éditeur, La Librairie Sonore". Fremeaux.com. Retrieved 2016-08-22.
  8. ^ 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.
  9. ^ a b "Official Charts - Shirley Bassey - The Banana Boat Song". Archive.is. Retrieved 2016-08-22.
  10. ^ "Harry Belafonte, activist and singer, 1927-2023". www.ft.com. Retrieved 2024-05-18.
  11. ^ a b c d Whitburn, Joel (2010). The Billboard book of top 40 hits (9th, rev. and expanded ed.). New York: Billboard Books. ISBN 9780823085545.
  12. ^ "Show 18 – Blowin' in the Wind: Pop discovers folk music. [Part 1]". UNT Digital Library. 1969-05-25. Retrieved 2010-09-24.
  13. ^ Banel, Feliks (14 September 2016). "The unlikely lasting legacy, melody from the Bon Marché". Mynorthwest.com. Retrieved 17 September 2018.
  14. ^ "Stephen Colbert Taunts Mike Pompeo With a Goodbye Calypso Tune". Thewrap.com. November 23, 2019.
  15. ^ "Arwrarwrirwrarwro - Enciclopedia - 31 minutos". Archived from the original on 2017-07-25. Retrieved 2017-08-08.
  16. ^ "6. Jason's 2011 Single 'Don't Wanna Go Home' May Sound A Bit Familiar!". Capital. Retrieved 2021-08-26.
  17. ^ "Harry Belafonte Talks Lil' Wayne's "6 Foot, 7 Foot" Sample". BET. Retrieved 2021-10-30.
  18. ^ IANS (2020-06-09). "Shaggy's 2019 track 'Banana', for which he collaborated with Conkarah, has become a rage due to banana drop challenge". The Hindu. ISSN 0971-751X. Retrieved 2024-02-29.
  19. ^ Evens, Nick (March 31, 2018). "Why The Day-O Scene In Beetlejuice Was Difficult To Shoot". CinemaBlend. Retrieved October 15, 2020.
  20. ^ "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.
  21. ^ Nolfi, Joey (March 13, 2024). "Beetlejuice sequel will include return of 'Day-O' song from first film". Entertainment Weekly. Archived from the original on March 13, 2024. Retrieved March 13, 2024.
  22. ^ 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.
  23. ^ Caruso, Nick (October 14, 2020). "The Amazing Race Season 32 Premiere Recap: Goat to the Finish". TVLine. Retrieved October 15, 2020.
  24. ^ "Justin Trudeau Admits to Also Wearing Blackface 'Makeup' in High School Following Time Report". Time. Retrieved September 19, 2019.
  25. ^ "NICO FIDENCO il granello del baby boom". La Stampa. 19 August 1996. Retrieved 13 September 2023.

External links[edit]