Yes! We Have No Bananas

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"Yes! We Have No Bananas"
Yes! We Have No Bananas.png
PublishedMarch 23, 1923 [1]

"Yes! We Have No Bananas" is an American novelty song by Frank Silver and Irving Cohn published March 23, 1923. It became a major hit in 1923 (placing No. 1 for five weeks)[2] when it was recorded by Billy Jones, Billy Murray, Arthur Hall, Irving Kaufman, and others. It was recorded later by Benny Goodman and His Orchestra, Spike Jones & His City Slickers, Kidsongs, and many more.

It inspired a follow-up song, "I've Got the Yes! We Have No Bananas Blues", recorded by Billy Jones and Sam Lanin (with vocals by Irving Kaufman and others) in 1923. Al Jolson recorded (on film) an operatic version, in blackface, in the 1930s.[3]


Frank Silver explained the origin of the song to Time Magazine: "I am an American, of Jewish ancestry, with a wife and a young son. About a year ago my little orchestra was playing at a Long Island hotel. To and from the hotel I was wont to stop at a fruit stand owned by a Greek, who began every sentence with 'Yess'. The jingle of his idiom haunted me and my friend Cohn. Finally I wrote this verse and Cohn fitted it with a tune."[4]

The song was the theme of the outdoor relief protests in Belfast in 1932. These were a unique example of Protestants and Catholics in Northern Ireland protesting together, and the song was used because it was one of the few non-sectarian songs that both communities knew. The song lent its title to a book about the depression in Belfast.[5]

The shopkeeper who said "Yes! We Have No Bananas" and inspired this song, may have been one of the many affected by a worldwide crash in the banana crop caused by Panama disease.[6][7]

The term has been resurrected on many occasions, including during rationing in the United Kingdom in World War II, when the British government banned imports of bananas for five years. Shop owners put signs stating "Yes, we have no bananas" in their shop windows in keeping with the war spirit.[citation needed]

The song was the subject of a column by Sigmund Spaeth, who suggested that the melody could have been derived from a combination of parts of other songs, including the "Hallelujah Chorus" from Messiah by Handel, "My Bonnie Lies Over The Ocean", "I Dreamt I Dwelt in Marble Halls", "Aunt Dinah's Quilting Party", and Cole Porter's "An Old-Fashioned Garden".

Replacing the original lyrics with the appropriate melodic phrases, it becomes:

Hallelujah, Bananas! Oh, bring back my Bonnie to me
I dreamt that I dwelt in marble halls—the kind that you seldom see
I was seeing Nellie home, to an old-fashioned garden: but,
Hallelujah, Bananas! Oh, bring back my Bonnie to me![8]

Spaeth subsequently repeated his argument as an expert witness.[citation needed]

On January 1, 2019, the song entered the public domain in the United States.[9][10]

In popular culture[edit]


The song appeared in the popular Betty and Veronica comic book #38, September 1958.[citation needed]


The song is referred to several times in Tender is the Night by F. Scott Fitzgerald.

The song is alluded to in "A Gentleman in Moscow" by Amor Towles in the Chapter entitled, 'Absinthe'

The family in "A Day with Wilbur Robinson" by William Joyce sing the song as a farewell.

The song is also referred to in "Magic by the Lake" by Edward Eager.

David Niven, in The Moon's a Balloon, remembered this as the song playing during his first sexual encounter, aged 14.

The song is referred to in “The magic island” by the Panamanian writer Rogelio Sinan.


The song was referred to in the film Only Angels Have Wings (1939), when Cary Grant asks Thomas Mitchell why a boat is not stopping at a particular port, Mitchell says, "They have no bananas", to which Cary Grant responds, "They have no bananas?!" and Mitchell answers, "Yes, they have no bananas."

The 39th Three Stooges Columbia short—directed by Del Lord—is titled Yes, We Have No Bonanza (1939).

In the musical film Luxury Liner (1948), the Pied Pipers performed the song.[11][better source needed]

In the 1954 Billy Wilder film Sabrina, starring Audrey Hepburn and Humphrey Bogart, the two go out boating and play the song on an old-fashioned crank phonograph, as Sabrina sings along.

A German version, "Ausgerechnet Bananen", was featured in Billy Wilder's comedy One, Two, Three (1961), played by a dance band at a drab East Berlin hotel bar, conducted by Friedrich Hollaender.

An instrumental version of the song is featured throughout All These Women (1964), a rare comedy by Ingmar Bergman.

The song was used as a leitmotif in The Comic (1969), often to underscore serious moments in the life of the film's protagonist (played by Dick Van Dyke).

In The English Patient (1996), a few verses are sung as a joke.

In the Mel Brooks film Dracula: Dead and Loving It (1995), comic homage is paid to the song when Harvey Korman responds to a question from Mel Brooks saying, "Yes, we have Nosferatu! We have Nosferatu today!"

A snippet is sung by Craig Sheffer's character in A River Runs Through It (1992).


Soon after this song became a popular hit, the answer song "I've Got The Yes! We Have No Banana Blues", composed by Robert King and James F. Hanley with lyrics by Lew Brown, was published. This song criticized the ubiquity and nonsensical lyrics of the original.[12] Eddie Cantor, Eva Taylor, Isabelle Patricola, and Belle Baker all sang this song on records released in 1923.

In November 1949, Louis Prima & His Orchestra recorded a version of the song,[13] released on the 1999 album Beepin' & Boppin'.

In concerts in the 1970s, Harry Chapin used the title line of this song as part of a comedic alternative ending to his song "30,000 Pounds of Bananas".

English singer-songwriter Kevin Ayers modified the song's name for his 1976 album Yes We Have No Mañanas (So Get Your Mañanas Today).

Brazilian composers Braguinha and Alberto Ribeiro wrote in 1938 an answer for the song called "Yes, nós temos bananas" (Yes, we do have bananas), first recorded by the singer and composer Almirante.

This song got a Dutch cover in 1999, by De Boswachters. This song became largely popular in the Netherlands after Patrick Kicken played it often on his radio show.


The song was often used by singer and comedian Jimmy Durante on The Jimmy Durante Show in the 1950s.

The song was parodied more than once on The Muppet Show, sung by various anthropomorphic fruits and vegetables and at one point The Swedish Chef.

In The Simpsons episode "Bart's Girlfriend" (November 6, 1994), Homer briefly sings, and then laments, the song with Harry Chapin’s “Cat’s in the Cradle” sung before this.

In The Brady Bunch episode "Never Too Young", Greg, Marcia and Jan are looking through a record collection as they prep for a Roaring Twenties party. Jan reads the title of the record, finding it groovy and far out. She remarks, "Today that sounds more like a group instead of a song".

The Cleveland Show referred to the song, on the Season 1 episode, "Gone With The Wind".

In the 1994 Iron Man cartoon, Hawkeye refers to the song while making fun of alien character Century, who apparently comes from a planet where everything said in a song is true.

In the Season 3 episode "My Mother the Countess" of Green Acres, Oliver insults his Hungarian-born wife Lisa by joking that the song is Hungary's national anthem.

The song is sung in the 2020 Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt special.

In Episode 18 Season 3 of Hot in Cleveland, "Cruel Shoes", Joy Scroggs refers to the song. A character says, "All good things start with yes," and Joy replies, "Except for that song, 'Yes, we have no bananas'…"

The song was referenced in Season 1 episode 22 of the cartoon Popeye, the New Adventures - the title appeared on a grocery store sign.[citation needed]

Weather report[edit]

The phrase was used in 2006, when Cyclone Larry destroyed a large portion of Australia's banana crop, leading to a shortage for most of the year.[14]


In 2008, The New York Times ran an op-ed, with the title "Yes, We Will have no Bananas", regarding the outcome of fungal diseases afflicting the Cavendish Banana.[15]


  1. ^
  2. ^ CD liner notes: Chart-Toppers of the Twenties, 1998 ASV Ltd.
  3. ^ "Al Jolson sings "Yes we have no bananas" - video Dailymotion".
  4. ^,9171,715996,00.html "No Bananas," Time Magazine, July 02, 1923.
  5. ^ Devlin, Paddy. Yes, We Have No Bananas: Outdoor Relief in Belfast, 1920-39.
  6. ^ Yes! We have no bananas: Why the song may come true again
  7. ^ The story behind ‘Yes, We Have No . . . Bananas’
  8. ^ Reader's Digest, Treasury of Best Loved Songs (1972), The Reader's Digest Association, Inc., LCCN 71-183858
  9. ^ "For the First Time in More Than 20 Years, Copyrighted Works Will Enter the Public Domain". Smithsonian Institution. 2018.
  10. ^ "Public Domain Day 2019". Duke University School of Law. Retrieved January 5, 2019.
  11. ^
  12. ^
  13. ^ Cannatella, Ron (2010). "Louis Prima Sessionography / Discography 1933-1975". Archived from the original on 2010-10-11. Retrieved 2021-12-13.
  14. ^ Peatling, Stephanie (21 March 2006). "Cyclone Larry Devastates Australian Towns, Crops; Second Storm Approaches". National Geographic News. Sydney, Australia: National Geographic. Archived from the original on 10 September 2006. Retrieved 13 November 2021.
  15. ^ "Yes, We Will have no Bananas", The New York Times, June 18, 2008.

External links[edit]