Yes! We Have No Bananas
|"Yes! We Have No Bananas"|
|Song by Eddie Cantor|
"Yes! We Have No Bananas" is a novelty song by Frank Silver and Irving Cohn from the 1922 Broadway revue Make It Snappy. Sung by Eddie Cantor in the revue, the song became a major hit in 1923 (placing No. 1 for five weeks) when it was recorded by Billy Jones, Arthur Hall, Irving Kaufman, and others. It was covered later by Benny Goodman and his Orchestra, Spike Jones & His City Slickers, and many more. It also inspired a follow-up song, "I've Got the Yes! We Have No Bananas Blues", recorded by Billy Jones and others in 1923.
The song is usually attributed to a banana shortage caused by blight in Brazil. But the town of Lynbrook on Long Island, New York claims that the songwriters composed it there and that the catchphrase "Yes! We have no bananas" was coined by Jimmy Costas, a local Greek American greengrocer. However, a 1923 article in the Chicago Tribune states that the phrase originated in Chicago in 1920. Cartoonist Thomas A. Dorgan (1877–1929) is also credited with inventing or popularizing the phrase.
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.
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.
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, you get:
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!
In popular culture
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!"
The song was parodied more than once on The Muppet Show, sung by various anthropomorphic fruits and vegetables.
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".
- Gros Michel banana – banana cultivar blighted by Panama disease and said to be the inspiration for the song.
- CD liner notes: Chart-Toppers of the Twenties, 1998 ASV Ltd.
- "Can This Fruit Be Saved?". Popular Science. June 2008.
- Lasser, Michael (2014). America's Songs II. London & New York: Routledge. p. 83. ISBN 978 0 415 81007 4.
- "Peelings on the Pavement". Chicago Daily Tribune. July 23, 1923. p. 6. OCLC 1554151.
- Devlin, Paddy. Yes, We Have No Bananas: Outdoor Relief in Belfast, 1920-39.
- Reader's Digest, Treasury of Best Loved Songs (1972), The Reader's Digest Association, Inc., LCCN 71-183858
- http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0969928/[better source needed]
- Koeppel, Dan (19 June 2005). "Can This Fruit Be Saved?". Popsci.com. Retrieved 2010-07-12.