United States composer Irving Burgie, who helped to popularize Caribbean music with hit songs like Day-O, died on Friday, Nov. 29, in Brooklyn, New York. He was 95.
His death was announced on Saturday, Nov. 30, by Barbados Prime Minister Mia Amor Mottley, who called for a moment of silence for the man who wrote its national anthem, USA Today reported.
Burgie is best known for helping singer Harry Belafonte bring calypso music to the mainstream.
The song Day-O, written in 1952, has been ubiquitous, appearing in everything from the film and Broadway musical “Beetlejuice” to an E-Trade commercial. It even as a wake-up call for astronauts in space.
Besides, the calypso hit, also known as The Banana Boat Song, was sampled by rapper Lil’ Wayne in his “6 Foot 7 Foot.”
According to the Songwriters Hall of Fame, Burgie’s songs have sold more than 100 million worldwide. Many were recorded by Belafonte, including eight of the 11 songs on Belafonte’s 1956 album, “Calypso,” which was the first album in the United States to sell more than a million copies.
His other well-known songs include Island in the Sun, Jamaica Farewell and Mary’s Boy Child, which he co-wrote.
Burgie did not begin pursuing a career in music until he returned from serving in an all-black United States Army battalion in World War II.
Burgie studied at New York’s prestigious Juilliard and became a folk singer using the stage name “Lord Burgess” and performed the circuit between New York and Chicago, making his New York nightclub debut at the Village Vanguard in 1954.