He is best known for the song "Jamaica Farewell", for which he wrote the lyrics. It was recorded by Harry Belafonte, Jimmy Buffett, Carly Simon and others. Burgie is the composer of 34 songs for Harry Belafonte, including eight of the eleven songs on the Belafonte album Calypso, which reached #1 on the Billboard charts. It was the first album of any kind to sell one million copies. In 1955, Burgie and William Attaway wrote a version of the lyrics for "Banana Boat Song" for the Colgate Comedy Hour, which was performed by Belafonte, who recorded the song for RCA Victor. This is the recording that is by far the best known to listeners today, as it reached number five on the Billboard charts in 1957 and later became his signature song.
Burgie wrote the music and lyrics for the 1963 Off-Broadway musical Ballad for Bimshire. He also co-wrote the book with Loften Mitchell. The show opened at the Mayfair Theater on October 15 and ran for 74 performances.
Burgie also wrote the lyrics of the National Anthem of Barbados. His life story has been recorded in the book Day-O!!! The Autobiography of Irving Burgie (2007). To date, songs penned by Irving Burgie have sold more than 100 million copies worldwide.
- Island in the Sun: The Songs of Irving Burgie, Angel 52222, 1996
- The Father Of Modern Calypso, VLT-15170, 2003