Ca­lypso king who penned hit song Day-O dies at 95

Scottish Daily Mail - - Life - Daily Mail Re­porter

WHEN ca­lypso ruled the air­waves its mu­si­cal monarch was Irv­ing Burgie, whose in­ter­na­tional hits such as Day-O brought the Caribbean craze into the main­stream.

The self-styled Lord Burgess – who has died at the age of 95 – was dubbed the King of Ca­lypso dur­ing a ca­reer that spanned more than 70 years.

Day-O – which was co-writ­ten by Burgie and sung by Harry Be­la­fonte – took the world by storm when it was re­leased in 1956, and went on to be used in films, ad­verts and even as a wake-up call for as­tro­nauts in space.

More re­cently, the hit – also known as The Ba­nana Boat Song – has been sam­pled by rap­per Lil Wayne and singer Ja­son Derulo.

Burgie died on Fri­day af­ter he suf­fered com­pli­ca­tions from heart fail­ure. The song­writer worked with artists in­clud­ing Chuck Berry, Carly Si­mon and Sam Cooke.

His songs sold more than 100mil­lion copies world­wide, and he also wrote In Plenty And In Time Of Need – the na­tional an­them of Bar­ba­dos, where his mother was born. Af­ter his death was an­nounced, there was a minute’s si­lence at the Bar­ba­dos In­de­pen­dence Day Pa­rade on Satur­day.

Burgie and Be­la­fonte, now 92, kicked off the ca­lypso craze that took hold around the world for more than a decade.

Be­la­fonte’s 1956 al­bum Ca­lypso, on which Burgie wrote eight of the 11 songs in­clud­ing Day-O, was the first LP to sell more than a mil­lion copies in the US. The al­bum topped the US charts for more than 32 weeks, a record at the time. Burgie’s hits also in­cluded Is­land In The Sun and Mary’s Boy Child, which he co-wrote with Be­la­fonte and which was cov­ered by Boney M in 1978.

US mu­sic critic Robert Shel­ton wrote of Burgie: ‘If there were an aris­toc­racy in the world of ca­lypso, Lord Burgess would be one of the reign­ing fig­ures.’

Day-O, based on a Ja­maican folk song, made Be­la­fonte a house­hold name. Burgie said ca­lypso had ‘rev­o­lu­tionised mu­sic’ by in­tro­duc­ing Caribbean rhythms to main­stream pop, ad­ding: ‘The com­bi­na­tion of me as the writer and Be­la­fonte as the per­former took off.’

Be­la­fonte’s cross­over suc­cess paved the way for Caribbean-in­flu­enced mu­sic to be­come main­stream in the Six­ties.

Burgie was born in New York in 1924. Af­ter serv­ing in an all-black army bat­tal­ion in the Se­cond World War, he used his de­mob money to pay for stud­ies at the fa­mous Juil­liard School of Mu­sic and later be­came a folk singer.

He was in­ducted into the Song­writ­ers Hall of Fame in 2007, and in hon­our of the 50th an­niver­sary of Day-O, the Amer­i­can So­ci­ety of Com­posers, Au­thors and Pub­lish­ers cre­ated a schol­ar­ship in his name.

Burgie, who was mar­ried twice, is sur­vived by two sons from his first mar­riage, one grand­child and one great-grand­child.

Folk star: Burgie in April Caribbean craze: Burgie, who found fame writ­ing songs for Harry Be­la­fonte, in­set

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