Famed “Day-O” Calypso Songwriter, Irving Burgie Passes Away

Famed "Day-O" Calypso Songwriter, Irving Burgie Passes Away

Irving Burgie

by Howard Campbell

NEW YORK – Songwriter Irving Burgie, whose impressive catalog includes pop standards such as Day-O, Jamaica Farewell and Mary’s Boy Child, has died.

His son, Andrew Burgie, confirmed that his father passed away on November 29 in New York at age 95. Heart failure was given as the cause of death.

The Brooklyn, New York-born Burgie’s father was African-American; his mother was from St. George’s parish in Barbados.

A graduate of the Julliard School, Burgie started his career as a singer known as Lord Burgess. He was with a group called The Serenaders in the early 1950s when he met Louise Bennett, a Jamaican actress/folklorist who championed the teaching of indigenous culture in her country.

Burgie credits her with educating him about West Indian folk songs, lessons which served him well when he met actor/singer Harry Belafonte, who also had Caribbean lineage.

The affable Burgie co-wrote eight of the 11 songs on Calypso, Belafonte’s 1956 album which was the first to sell over one million copies.

It contained Day-O, a heartfelt ode to West Indian banana workers, and Jamaica Farewell.

Burgie, who visited his mother’s homeland frequently, wrote the lyrics to In Plenty and In Time of Need, the Barbados national anthem.

He is survived by two children, grandchildren and great grandchildren.

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