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Day-O: Irving Burgie, US composer who popularized calypso, dies

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American singer and composer Irving Burgie, who co-wrote Harry Belafonte’s song “Day-O” (the Banana Boat Song) and swung calypso into the mainstream, has died aged 95.

Burgie’s death on Friday was announced at the Barbados Independence Day Parade Saturday by Prime Minister Mia Amor Mottley. She asked for a moment of silence for the songwriter who composed the country’s national anthem.

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Burgie died as a result of complications from heart failure. His death was also confirmed by his son Andrew Burgie, US media reported.

He was best known as the man who helped Belafonte introduce calypso music to the mainstream.

Based on a Jamaican folk song, “Day-O” was first recorded in 1952 but Burgie re-worked the lyrics for Belafonte’s version on the 1956 album “Calypso”.

It went on to be the first full-length album ever credited with selling one million copies in the US, according to US media.

Born in Brooklyn, Burgie joined the army and served in an all-black unit building a road in North Burma — now modern-day Myanmar — during World War II.

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After the conflict he studied at New York’s prestigious Juilliard performing arts school after receiving government support for war veterans.


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