Banana Boat Song (Day-O)
DESCRIPTION: Work song about loading bananas; refrain: "Daylight come and me want go home" or "Day the light and me want go home." The workers ask the "tally man" to count the bananas so they can go home after loading all night.
AUTHOR: Unknown, but the lyrics to the version made popular by Belafonte (and adapted for the civil rights movement) were written by pop songwriters Irving Burgle and William Attaway
EARLIEST DATE: 1951 (Murray-FolkSongsOfJamaica)
KEYWORDS: ship work worksong worker nonballad food
FOUND IN: West Indies(Jamaica)
REFERENCES (4 citations):
Murray-FolkSongsOfJamaica, pp. 2-4, "Day Dah Light" (1 text, 1 tune)
ADDITIONAL: Jim Morse, _Folk Songs of the Caribbean_ (New York: Bantam Books, 1958), pp. 84-85, "Day Dah Light" (1 text, 1 tune)
William Attaway and Lyle Kenyon Engel, _Calypso Song Book_ (New York: Calypso Music, Inc, 1957), pp. 18-19, "Banana Boat Loader's Song" (1 text, 1 tune)
Noel Dexter and Godfrey Taylor, _Mango Time - Folk Songs of Jamaica_ (Kingston: Ian Randle Publishers, 2007), pp. 50-51, "Day Oh" (1 text, 1 tune)
Edric Connor with the Caribbeans and Earl Inkman, "Day Dah Light" (on WIEConnor01)
Louise Bennett, "Day Dah Light (Day O)" (on WILBennett01, n.d., on "Jamaica-Mento: 1951-58," Fremaux and Associes CDFA 5275).
Denzil Laing and The Wigglers, "Linstead Market/Day O)" (2004, on "Mento Madness, Motta's Jamaican Mento: 1951-56," V2 Music Ltd CD 63881-27201-2)
Harry Belafonte with Tony Scott's Orchestra and Chorus, "Day O" (1956, as "Banana Boat" on RCA Victor 45 rpm 47-6771, 1980, "Harry Belafonte All Time Greatest Hits Vol. I," RCA BMG LC 0316)
Calypso Freedom (RECORDING: Willie Peacock, on VoicesCiv)
NOTES [255 words]: The song is, of course, best known as a 1956 pop hit for revival performer Harry Belafonte. I take it as a song that seems to have originated in tradition and certainly moved there, as witness its adoption by the civil rights movement ("freedom come and I want go home"). -PJS
This is a call and answer work song, where the call is a single line and the answer is "day dah light and me wan' go home." There were probably dozens of calls but the versions listed here so far have only seventeen, and of those, three have what I consider significant variants. Bennett is probably the source for most of the calls we have. Attaway, in his book, has four calls not in any other version, and none of those are in the Belafonte version (Attaway is one of the credited writers of Belafonte's text, along with Irving Burgie -- dba Lord Burgess -- and Belafonte himself); the Belafonte version has five calls not in other texts and one interesting variant: a call common to all but Dexter is "six han' seven han' eight han' bunch," a "hand" being a bunch of bananas; Belafonte's text, followed by the singers that "sampled" his version afterwards, replaces "hand" with "foot" and has the worker "lift" the bunch so many feet.
Which, if any, of Attaway's and Belafonte's calls were not from the docks I cannot say. Incidentally, both Attaway and Belafonte share two calls with Bennett. In Attaway and Engel, the attributions say whether the texts include "special lyrics by Attaway"; that is *not* the case for "Banana Boat Loader's Song." - BS
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