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CARIBBEAN | Irving Burgie who wrote the Barbadian National Anthem is dead at 95

Featured Irving Burgie is the songwriter and composer who put Barbados music on the map. Irving Burgie is the songwriter and composer who put Barbados music on the map.
US composer Irving Burgie, who along with singer Harry Belafonte helped to popularise Caribbean music and bring calypso music into mainstream music with hit songs like Day-O, has died aged 95.

Mr Burgie who died on Friday as a result of complications from heart failure, is half American and half Barbadian and was born in Brooklyn, New York in 1926.

His Barbadian mother exposed Irving to Bajan culture, including Calypso music which would pave the way for Burgie’s life.

Also known as Lord Burgess, Burgie is the songwriter and composer who wrote the lyrics for the national anthem of Barbados.

His death was confirmed by Barbados Prime Minister Mia Amor Mottley, who called for a moment of silence for the man who wrote its national anthem.

Burgie’s first mega-hit happened in the 1950’s when he wrote eight of the songs on the Harry Belafonte album – Calypso, including the world-renowned song “Day O, The Banana Boat Song” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PMigXnXMhQ4.

Day-O which he co-wrote, went on to be used in films, adverts and even as a wake-up call for astronauts in space. The calypso hit, also featured in the popular film Beetlejuice and has been sampled by rapper Lil Wayne and singer Jason Derulo.

This album put Barbadian music on the world map as the album became the first ever to sell over one million copies in the US. It stayed at the top of the Billboard charts for a spectacular 36 weeks and remained on the Billboard charts itself for more than a year.

Mr Burgie wrote eight of the 11 songs on Harry Belafonte's 1956 album Calypso, which was the first album in the US to sell more than a million copies. His website says his songs have sold more than 100 million records worldwide.

During his career, the composer worked with artists including Jimmy Buffett, Chuck Berry and Sam Cooke.

His other well-known songs include Island in the Sun, Jamaica Farewell and Mary's Boy Child, which he co-wrote.

Brooklyn-born Mr Burgie did not begin pursuing a career in music until he returned from serving in an all-black US Army battalion in the China-Burma-India Theatre in World War II where he developed a keen interest in studying music.

He then used the benefits he received as a war veteran to fund his studies at New York's prestigious Juilliard performing arts school; the University of Arizona and the University of Southern California.

Burgie went on to launch a career as a singer and guitarist before moving into writing songs for others.

  • Countries: Barbados

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