Harry Belafonte is almost one hundred years old. Yet, he is still one of the most famous Jamaican performers of all time. His melodies popularized Caribbean music. He was the first single artist (not in a band or group) to sell one million records.
He is best known for his number one single, “The Banana Boat Song,” which is more commonly known as “Day-O,” Belafonte’s signature lyric.
In this video, Belafonte performs the song for a live audience. Though the singer must’ve shared this song an innumerable amount of times, he gives this performance his all, and the crowd loves it.
“Day-O” is a call and response work song that includes the audience in the performance. It’s a great example of calypso music and an older Jamaican folk song. The song is about dock workers loading bananas onto ships during the night shift.
During this performance, Belafonte was seventy-years-old! He sets the song up like a music class as he shows the audience precisely what he wants in their response. Early in the song, when the audience isn’t loud enough, he lets them know they need to give more.
The crowd is so excited to participate; many bob their heads around with each note they sing back to Belafonte. He is their choir director, and he wants the audience to understand the plight of these workers–they long for the sunrise to let them cease their night’s work.
With the excitement and vigor of a much younger man, Belafonte closes out his live concert with this famous song. Though he’s sung this song an infinite amount of times, he gives this audience the experience they came for, and all leave happy.