Yes! We Have No Bananas
|"Yes! We Have No Bananas"|
|Published||July 19, 1923|
"Yes! We Have No Bananas" is a novelty song by Frank Silver and Irving Cohn published July 19, 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 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.
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." Silver may have been influenced by an actual shortage of Gros Michel bananas in the early 20th century.
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!"
A snippet is also sung by Craig Sheffer's character in A River Runs Through It (1992).
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 references the song while making fun of alien character Century, who apparently comes from a planet where everything said in a song is true.
- CD liner notes: Chart-Toppers of the Twenties, 1998 ASV Ltd.
- "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
- http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0969928/[better source needed]