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The Banana Boat Song: Day-O

Updated on February 15, 2013

Daylight Come and Me Wanna Go Home

The Banana Boat Song, also known as Day-O, grew out of a traditional Caribbean folk song. Trinidadian Edric Connor first recorded The Banana Boat Song in England around 1954, under the title Day Dah Light (Banana Loaders Song), then The Tarriers and Harry Belafonte each had hits with Day-O (or The Banana Boat Song by 1960. Since then, people around the world and across genres have recorded the song: Chet Atkins(country), Monty Alexander (jazz), Michiko Hamumura (Japanese), Nina and Frederik (Danish), Sudirman (Malaysian), Taj Mahal (blues), and others.

Few people talk about why Caribbean folks were loading bananas on boats until dawn in the first place, or why they had a quota to meet. Those few tend to see Day-O as a song about exploitation and slavery, much like traditional songs and spirituals from the American south. I prefer to think of songs with such roots, especially those that have become wildly popular, as proof that music knows no boundaries.

Lyrics and Guitar Tabs for The Banana Boat Song (Day-O) - The Harry Belafonte Version

I suspect that most of you already know the lyrics to this song. It's been a favorite of children for decades. I often sing it with my own kids as we dance around the living room. The song may have languished for a few years, but the movie Beetlejuice brought it (and Harry Belafonte in general) roaring back into popularity in the 1980s. Suddenly, I wasn't the only one who knew the words to The Banana Boat Song and Jump in the Line, two of my all-time favorite songs.

I took out the repetitive "Day-o, day-ay-ay-o" parts and kept the verses and bridge. The chords are above, and they simply go back and forth throughout the song. Some versions include "heave" instead of "lift" or "hand" rather than "foot", but the concept remains the same.

Work all night on a drink of rum

Daylight come and me wan' go home

Stack banana till de morning come

Daylight come and me wan' go home

Come, Mister tally man, tally me banana

Daylight come and me wan' go home

Come, Mister tally man, tally me banana

Lift six foot, seven foot, eight foot bunch

Daylight come and me wan' go home

Lift six foot, seven foot, eight foot bunch

Daylight come and me wan' go home

Beautiful bunch of ripe banana

Daylight come and me wan' go home

In there hide the deadly black tarantula

Daylight come and me wan' go home

Music Videos for The Banana Boat Song - Day-O! Harry Belafante, Beetlejuice, and The Muppets

Day-O's popularity spans generations and genres. Take a sample of the more well-known versions here. You can listen to even more just below the videos. You'll find Harry Belafonte, naturally, as well as Carlo Santana, The Wiggles, and the Muppets.

Sample Version of The Banana Boat Song - Hear Day-O in Many Different Styles

You can find Carribean steel drummers, Shirley Bassey, Taj Mahal, Harry Belafonte, and lots of other cover versions to sample and buy. I dare you not to sing along and move your hips to some of these terrific renditions. I know I've been dancing in my chair, just finding them all!

Which Cover Version of The Banana Boat Song Is Your Favorite? - Do You Love Day-O, Too?

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    • Athelyna LM profile image

      Athelyna LM 6 years ago

      I grew up loving Stan Freberg's humorous version - my little brother and I would giggle for hours at the "too loud, man" and "I came through the window" parts.

      This is the first time I read the lyrics to the song - I always thought it was "highly deadly black tarantula." It's nice to learn something new!

    • nuestraherencia profile image

      nuestraherencia 6 years ago

      One of my all time favorites! I actually have the CD and love listening to it! Great job on this lens!

    • ZCademy profile image

      ZCademy 6 years ago from Northeast North America, Earth

      I've always enjoyed the song ... mostly the Harry Belafonte version. But, just for laughs, was the version sung on a 1970s TV show, WKRP in Cincinatti, by a disc jockey on the morning after the night before:

      Day-O, Day-O

      Daylight come and I wanna throw up.

    • julietarot lm profile image

      julietarot lm 6 years ago

      Ages since I've thought about this song! Any version of it is welcome! Good lens.

    • poptastic profile image

      Cynthia Arre 7 years ago from Quezon City

      Beautifully written and formatted lens on one of the most loved Harry Belafonte songs. My parents would play this a lot when I was a child so I have fond memories of it. Hearing it also reminds me of that weird dinner scene in Beetlejuice! ~Blessed~

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      julieannbrady 7 years ago

      Day-oh ... Day-oh ... Daylight come and me wan' go home!

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      anonymous 7 years ago

      Great lyrics of this Banana boat song.

    • LizMac60 profile image

      Liz Mackay 8 years ago from United Kingdom

      They are all just great. This lens brings back so many memories from my youth. what a wonderful song with it's poignant atmosphere of people in slavery or near slavery. 5 stars

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      Sojourn 8 years ago

      OMG, my husband and I just laughed ourselves silly at the Beetlejuice clip. I've always liked this song but that clip is one of my all time favorites. The older I get, the more I appreciate how difficult it must have been for the actors to dance around and yet look as if they were being controlled by the ghosts. Can you imagine how many takes they must have had to go through?

      Loved your intro about why we don't question why the song has them picking bananas until the wee hours of the morning. Hadn't quite thought of that but you make a point! Regardless, this is a wonderful song and I enjoyed reading about the background information.

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      anonymous 9 years ago

      I love the song. know all the words!! :)

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      dannystaple 9 years ago

      I love this song - always brings a smile to my face. For me it is either the muppets version or the Beetlejuice one - two of my great childhood faves.

      What a fun lens! Love my captcha word today - "gigagag".

    • Cari Kay 11 profile image

      Kay 9 years ago

      We had banana trees at our last home in Trinidad. I always thought of this song when I was outdoors near them. Couldn't seem to help humming the tune :)