Yes! We Have No Bananas
|"Yes! We Have No Bananas"|
|Published||March 23, 1923 |
"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) 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.
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."
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
This section contains a list of miscellaneous information. (June 2017)
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."
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. Eddie Cantor, Eva Taylor, Isabelle Patricola, and Belle Baker all sang this song on records released in 1923.
English singer-songwriter Kevin Ayers modified the song's name for his 1976 album Yes We Have No Mañanas (So Get Your Mañanas Today).
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".
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.
On the Season 3 episode of Green Acres, "My Mother the Countess", 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 refers to the song. A character says, "all good things start with yes" Joy says, "except for that song, 'yes we have no bananas'..."
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.
- CD liner notes: Chart-Toppers of the Twenties, 1998 ASV Ltd.
- http://content.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,715996,00.html "No Bananas," Time Magazine, July 02, 1923.
- 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
- "For the First Time in More Than 20 Years, Copyrighted Works Will Enter the Public Domain". Smithsonian.com. Smithsonian Institution. 2018.
- "Public Domain Day 2019". Duke University School of Law. Retrieved January 5, 2019.
- https://www.imdb.com/name/nm0969928/[better source needed]
- https://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2006/03/0321_060321_cyclone_larry_2.html | National Geographic News, March 21, 2006
- "Yes, We Will have no Bananas", The New York Times, June 18, 2008.
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