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Wooooo.....scaaaary! You can play along with the Harry Belafonte video!
The oldest versions of the song refer to a jumbee jamboree. Jumbies are evil spirits who were thought to cause wild dancing in their victims. The song's references to Carnival also suggest a connection to the Moko jumbie, a protecting spirit figure represented during Carnival on Trinidad by stilt walkers and dancers. The switch to "Zombie Jamboree" occurred very early with King Flash's version with those lyrics coming out in 1956, only three years after "Jumbie Jamboree" first appeared.
Like many "folk" songs, there is unclear copyright in the song and many lines are variable between versions. While many versions set the song in a New York, Long Island or Woodlawn Cemetery, some place it in Kingston or an island cemetery. The third verse is the most variable with The Charmer's version discussing the local food at a previous jumbie carnival parade while Rockapella's version discusses zombies and King Kong invading various New York City landmarks. The third verse of King Flash's 1956 version further discusses the female zombie's romantic pursuit of the singer.
****REVISED April 29, 2019 - SR****