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I LOVE how a traditional folk song can have SO many interpretations!
"Day-O (The Banana Boat Song)" has mento influences, but the song was commonly classified as an example of the better known calypso music.
The song was thought to be sung by Jamaican banana workers, with a repeated melody and refrain (call and response); to each set lyric, the workers made a response. There were numerous versions of lyrics, some likely improvised on the spot by the singers. The song was probably created around the second half of the nineteenth century or the first half of twentieth century, where there was a rise of the banana trade in Jamaica. The song was first recorded by Trinidadian singer Edric Connor and his band "Edric Connor and the Caribbeans" on the 1952 album Songs From Jamaica; the song was called "Day Dah Light". In 1955, American singer-songwriters Lord Burgess and William Attaway wrote a version of the lyrics for The Colgate Comedy Hour, in which the song was performed by Harry Belafonte. Belafonte recorded the song for RCA Victor and this is the version that is best known to listeners today, as it reached number five on the Billboard charts in 1957 and later became Belafonte's signature song. Irving Louis Burgie, aka Lord Burgess, composed or arranged 34 songs for Harry Belafonte, including eight of the songs included on Belafonte's 1956 album Calypso, including "Day-O"' and "Jamaica Farewell", which was the first album of any kind to sell one million copies. And Burgie wrote or arranged eight of the twelve tracks on Belafonte's 1961 album Jump Up Calypso. Burgie also wrote the lyrics of the National Anthem of Barbados. He was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2007.