Composer Irving Burgie, who helped popularize Caribbean music and co-wrote the enduring Harry Belafonte hit Day-O (The Banana Boat Song), has died at the age of 95.
At the Barbados Independence Day Parade on Saturday, Prime Minister Mia Amor Mottley announced that Burgie had died Friday.
Day-O, written in 1952, has been ubiquitous, appearing in everything from the film and Broadway musical Beetlejuice to an E-Trade commercial. Day-O was also the wake-up call for the astronauts on two Space Shuttle missions in the 1990s. When a superstar list of music royalty gathered to film the We Are the World video in 1985, most burst into a playful version of Day-O in between takes.
According to the Songwriters Hall of Fame, Burgie’s songs have sold more than 100 million records throughout the world. Many were recorded by Belafonte, including eight of the 11 songs on Belafonte’s 1956 album, Calypso, the first album to sell more than 1 million copies in the U.S. Burgess also penned songs for the Kingston Trio – The Seine, El Matador and The Wanderer – and for other groups.
His Jamaica Farewell has been recorded by Belafonte, Jimmy Buffett, Carly Simon and others. Others who have sung his songs include Mantovani, Miriam Makeba and Julio Iglesias. Burgie’s classic Caribbean standards include such familiar hits as Island in The Sun and Angelina, and he was co-writer of Mary’s Boy Child. He also wrote the 1963 off-Broadway musical Ballad for Bimshire that starred Ossie Davis.
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