Irving Burgie, the Brooklyn-born composer of the Calypso classic “Day-O (The Banana Boat Song),” has died. He was 92.
Burgie’s death was announced by Barbados Prime Minister Mia Amor Mottley who called for a moment of silence for the man who also wrote the lyrics for the country’s national anthem.
Burgie died Friday as a result of complications from heart failure, NPR said, with his son, Andrew Burgie, confirming the death.
Born in Brooklyn, Burgie served in an all-black US Army battalion in World War II and used GI Bill funds to pay for music studies at universities including Juilliard.
He became a folk singer using the stage name “Lord Burgess” and performed on the circuit between New York and Chicago, making his New York nightclub debut at the Village Vanguard in 1954.
But he was best known as the man who helped Harry Belafonte introduce calypso music to the mainstream with 1952’s “Day-O,” which has appeared in everything from film, Broadway and commercials.
“Day-O” was also the wake-up call for the astronauts on two Space Shuttle missions in the 1990s.
Burgie’s songs — many with Belafonte — have sold more than 100 million records throughout the world, according to the Songwriters Hall of Fame.
He wrote eight of the 11 songs on Belafonte’s 1956 album, “Calypso,” the first album to sell more than 1 million copies in the US.
He also wrote the lyrics to the national anthem of Barbados — his mother’s homeland.
“We write our names on history’s page/With expectations great/Strict guardians of our heritage/Firm craftsmen of our fate,” go some of the lines of the anthem.