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Irving Burgie (1924–2019), “Day-O” songwriter

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The calypso song was a hit for Harry Belafonte

Irving Burgie wrote the calypso song “Day-O” (aka “The Banana Boat Song”) which became a huge hit for singer Harry Belafonte in 1956. Burgie, who went by the name Lord Burgess, co-wrote the song with William Attaway, based on a traditional Jamaican folk song. “Day-O” spent 31 weeks at No. 1 on the Billboard chart and later was featured in a popular scene in the movie “Beetlejuice.” He wrote many more calypso songs for Belafonte including “Island in the Sun.” Burgie was a member of an all-black unit in the Army during World War II. After the war, he worked the folk music circuit in Greenwich Village and then began writing for Belafonte. His mother was a native of Barbados and Burgie wrote the country’s national anthem. He was elected to the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2007.

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Died: Friday, November 29, 2019 (Who else died on November 29?)

Details of death: Died at the age of 95.


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Burgie on the success of “Day-O”: “I took a trip around the world in 1958, and [‘Day-O’] was No. 1 everywhere. I heard it in Japan, Africa, Europe, Scandinavia. I guess it sort of hit a responsive chord in people [with the lyric] ‘Daylight come and [me wan’] go home.’ For people who had been working all day, it became sort of an office cry.” —1997 interview with Billboard

Full obituary: Washington Post

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