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9-11 POP CULTURE REPOSITORY:
BANANA BOAT PARODIES

A Harry Belafonte classic's melody is borrowed for songs of revenge against Osama Bin Laden

Harry Belafonte
Belafonte

"Day-O (The Banana Boat Song)" was a 1956 chart hit for Harlem-born Harold George "Harry" Belafonte (1927- ). The singer, actor and composer also was a civil rights activist, who spent part of his childhood in his mother's native Jamaica. He performed in theater in the 1940s and '50s before helping to launch a calypso music craze in the mid-1950s, and "Day-O" is included. Belafonte wrote the music and lyrics with Lord Burgess and Bill Attaway.

The song would resurface 32 years later in a loopy sequence in Tim Burton's Beetlejuice, about a mischievous ghost played by Michael Keaton. Belafonte reprised his signature song and saw it climb into the Top 40 again.

In the week following the 11 September attacks, three disk jockeys from the morning show of KOMP-FM, a Las Vegas rock 'n' roll station, dashed off some lyrics to the "Day-O" tune. The song debuted on 18 September, only a week after the attacks, and quickly expanded beyond the Vegas market -- the Internet and its related music software playing no small part.
Listen: "Air Force Come"
(151 KB)

"Osama Bin Laden Bomb Song" was quickly seized upon by animators using Macromedia's Flash software. Several cartoons appeared with "Bomb Song" as the background music. One of the best known had a White House setting, with Secretary of State Colin Powell voicing the lyrics, while President George W. Bush kept time on a conga drum.

As the cartoon progresses, Osama Bin Laden is shown running away from near-misses with US bombs in the desert. These animations appeared as the United States did start a relentless bombing campaign on Afghanistan in October 2001. And, interestingly enough, this "Nowhere to Run" parody was made by Oska Educational Systems Pty., Ltd., an Australian, not American, company.
George and his conga drum
A animated excerpt from "Cruise Missile," the Oska cartoon.

A second version, just under one minute, also made the rounds. The lyricist of this version is still being tracked down.

A third parody, by Steven Grabo and Jeffrey Prekop of the Misplaced Comedy Group of South Carolina, claimed to the be original "Day-O"/Bin Laden song. The comedy troupe consists of four people who have launched live improvisational shows like Second City, and also record satirical ditties. Misplaced Comedy's take has sound effects of fighter jets flying overhead, freaked-out camels braying and is regularly punctuated by exploding bombs.

The Misplaced version is one of 16 tracks of the CD The Afghan Files (2001), recorded on Grabo's home studio and released to MP3.com. All of the songs were some poke at Bin Laden or Afghanistan's Taliban.
Members of Misplaced Comedy Group
Members of the Misplaced Comedy Group who penned a Banana Boat parody are Steve Grabo (far left) and Jeff Prekop (far right).

"I'd say the whole CD was done in a month," Grabo told The Island Packet of Hilton Head, South Carolina. "Our theme was 'Comic relief for America's grief.' We were trying to fight back terrorism without being violent."

Added Prekop, "It was definitely healing for me. It's hard to find the humor in something like this, but tome, the most important part of healing is laughing ... that's what we hope we've done."

The Afghan Files in part raised money for the American Red Cross, with each listen donating half a penny. "It was definitely healing for me," Prekop said.

A fourth version penned by a person with the handle "The Curmudgeon" appeared on an Internet message board in October 2001. This version was Bin Laden himself, begging the Taliban for help after the bombs start dropping.

These songs are part of the parody segment of pop culture. Because they are built around historic events, they also fall into the "topical" category. A popular melody receives new words that directly refer to the timeframe in which they were thought up. This usually makes them dated artifacts of a specific historical period. If the "Day-O" 9-11 songs were played on the 20th birthday of someone born in 2001, they would have to draw on a knowledge of American history to understand them.

The topicality is reflected in references to Bin Laden and the Taliban, Afghanistan's oppressive rulers from 1996-2001. Powell, one-time chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, is mentioned in the KOMP version as ready to bomb.

The second version further refers to the pilot being the brother of a New York firefighter -- the FDNY lost 343 men in the World Trade Center attack. The Misplaced Comedy version talks of bombing "till the camels come home," a reference to an animal Americans would associate with the Middle East and obviously a twist on the English language idiom "till the cows come home."

The songs also represent American's intense, verbal reaction to being slighted or humiliated through violent assaults. Especially in the late 20th century, parody songs drawn from these events speak of the USA's military strength and readiness to retaliate. The superpower does not want to be embarrassed on the global scene!

Similar sentiments have appeared in earlier crises, such as the Iran hostage crisis in 1979. One example was "Ayatollah," to the melody of The Knack's "My Sharona," in which Iran's onetime leader Khomeini gloats about his power. It was written and performed by one of the earliest "shock jocks," Steve Dahl of Chicago's WLUP-FM.

In fact, parody music, whether using new or existing tunes, is not new. Charlie Chaplin's The Great Dictator (1939) mocked Adolf Hitler's life and included the main character's longing ditty about conquering the entire world. After the US entered World War II, Walt Disney offered Donald Duck in Nutziland (aka Der Fuhrer's Face, 1943), in which the scrappy bird dreams he's a Nazi munitions plant worker and joins along in the satirical title song.
KOMP-FM morning show jocks
The KOMP disk jockeys who created one of the songs: Craig Williams, "Sweet" Al Miller and Andy Kaye.

The song by KOMP-FM jocks Craig Williams, "Sweet" Al Miller, Doug Marsh and news director Andy Kaye attracted media from around the world, including NBC-TV's Today Show.

In November 2001, Patrick "KC" Dix and Jeff Alder, two machinists from St. George, Utah, claimed they had thought of a "Day-O" parody first and sent a fax with proposed lyrics to KOMP. "We didn't even get a thanks for the idea," Alder told a Vegas newspaper.

The men did not sue the KOMP jocks, desiring only credit.

Williams strongly maintained "Bomb Song" was the DJs' idea and no others. "So many people are claiming responsibility for our song," Williams told the Las Vegas Review-Journal. "It's kind of crazy, and I hate to see it."

The Misplaced Comedy Group maintains that it created the very first "Day-O" parody. Its version was played at radio stations across the country in fall 2001 and uploaded to MP3.com.

Belafonte himself was underwhelmed by the KOMP "Bomb Song." He told a gossip columnist Baird Jones he was "appalled" by the change of the "happy go lucky" mood of his song into a wartime rallying cry and that it trivialized the 11 September tragedy.

The singer-actor decided not to sue, however, wanting to avoid "getting drawn into some kind of bad feeling contest." Litigation also was not likely, as the KOMP staffers did not intend to make money with their take-off song.

Banana Boat Parody #1

"Osama Bin Laden Bomb Song"

Words by Craig Williams, "Sweet" Al Miller, Andy Kaye and Doug Marsh

Day-o! Daaa-yo!
Daylight come, and we drop the bomb

Pay -- we say pay, we say pay, we say pay, we say pay-o!
Kick your ass, then we gonna come home

George Bush says that revenge come
Daylight come, and we drop the bomb
Load dem bombs til the morning come
Airplane come and we drop the bomb

Come, Mr. Taliban, turn over bin Laden
Colin Powell gonna bomb his home
Come, Mr. Taliban, turn over bin Laden
Payback come, and we drop the bomb

Lift one bomb, two bomb, three bomb, four!
Payback come, and we drop the bomb
Six bombs, seven bombs, hit the floor
Cruise missile knocking at your door

Come, Mr.Taliban, turn over bin Laden
Colin Powell gonna bomb his home
Come, Mr. Taliban, turn over bin Laden
Payback come, and we drop the bomb

Lift one bomb, two bomb, three bomb, four!
Payback come when we drop the bomb
Six bomb, seven bomb, hit the floor
Cruise missile knocking at your door

Pay -- we say pay-o
Kick your ass, then we wanna come home

Banana Boat Parody #2

Air Force Come

This 51-second parody shared similar sentiments with the KOMP version. The lyricist is unknown at this time.

A-yo! Aaa-yo!
Air Force come, and they flatten your home.

Run, Mr. Taliban, we know where you're hidin'
Air Force come, and they flatten your home

Hey, USA, USA, USA, USA-o!
Uncle Sam come, and he flatten your home

Sixty-foot, seventy-foot, eighty-foot crater
Air Force come, and they flatten your home

Poor Uncle Sam's pissed, and he ain't no quitter
Air Force come, and they flatten your home

When we're finished, you'll all be cryin'!
Air Force come, and they flatten your home

Pilot is brother of New York fireman!
Air Force come, and they flatten your home.

Banana Boat Parody #3

Lyrics by "The Curmudgeon." Originally posted on the Ezboard message boards on the World Wide Web, October 2001. There is no recorded version. Bin Laden himself sings a lament as the United States and allies close in. Note the reference to a 6,000 death toll. There were actually about 3,000 victims.

Day-oh! D-a-a-a-y-oh!
Air Force gonna come, gonna bomb my home!
Day-oh! D-a-a-a-y-oh!
Air Force gonna come, gonna bomb my home!

One plane, two planes, four planes we crash
Now Air Force come, gonna bomb my home
Two hit New York an' 6,000 gone in a flash
Now Air Force come, gonna bomb my home

Come, Mr. Taliban, prevent my extradition
Air Force gone, an' I got no more home
Hey, Mr. Taliban, save me from eviction
Air Force gone, an' I got no more home

Osama, O-s-a-a-a-ma!
Daylight never gonna come, you get no new home!
Osama, O-s-a-a-a-ma!
Daylight never gonna come, you get no new home!

Banana Boat Parody #4

The Bin Laden (Banana Boat) Song

Misplaced Comedy Group, 2001; lyrics by Steven Grabo and Jeff Prekop.

B-i-i-in! B-i-i-in Laden!
Someday soon, now you're gonna go boom

Bin! Me say Bin, me say Bin, me say Bin, me say Bin Laden!
Someday soon, now you're gonna go boom

Bomb all night to get that scum!
Someday soon, now you're gonna go boom
Drop the bombs till the camels come home
Someday soon, now you're gonna go boom

Come, Mr. Taliban, give us Mr. Bin Laden
Someday soon, now you're gonna go boom
Come, Mr. Taliban, give us Mr. Bin Laden
Someday soon, now you're gonna go boom

We drop six bombs, seven bombs, eight bombs -- boom!
Someday soon, now you're gonna go boom
We drop six bombs, seven bombs, eight bombs -- boom!
Someday soon, now you're gonna go boom

A beautiful bunch of US soldiers
Someday soon, now you're gonna go boom
Watch your ass, so we gonna get ya!
Someday soon, now you're gonna go boom

We drop six bombs, seven bombs, eight bombs -- boom!
Someday soon, now you're gonna go boom
Six bombs, seven bombs, eight bombs -- boom!
Someday soon, now you're gonna go boom

B-i-i-in! B-i-i-in Laden!
Someday soon, now you're gonna go boom

Bin! Me say Bin, me say Bin, me say Bin, me say Bin Laden!
Someday soon, now you're gonna go boom

For Comparison -- The Original "Day-O"

Music and lyrics by Harry Belafonte, Lord Burgess and Bill Attaway.

Day-O, day-ay-ay-o
Daylight come, and me wan' go home
Day, me say day, me say day, me say day, me say day, me say day-ay-ay-o
Daylight come, and me wan' go home

Work all night, and a drink a rum
(Daylight come and me wan' go home)
Stack banana till thee morning come
(Daylight come and me wan' go home)

Come, Mr. Tally Mon, tally me banana
(Daylight come and me wan' go home)
Come, Mr. Tally Mon, tally me banana
(Daylight come and me wan' go home)

It's six foot, seven foot, eight foot bunch!
(Daylight come and me wan' go home)
Six foot, seven foot, eight foot bunch!
(Daylight come and me wan' go home)

Day, me say day-ay-ay-o
(Daylight come and me wan' go home)
Day, me say day, me say day
(Daylight come and me wan' go home)

A beautiful bunch a ripe banana
(Daylight come and me wan' go home)
Hide the deadly black tarantula
(Daylight come and me wan' go home)

Day, me say day-ay-ay-o
(Daylight come and me wan' go home)
Day, me say day, me say day, me say day, me say day, me say day
(Daylight come and me wan' go home)

Come, Mr. Tally Mon, tally me banana
(Daylight come and me wan' go home)
Come Mr. Tally Mon, tally me banana
(Daylight come and me wan' go home)

Day-o, day-ay-ay-o
(Daylight come and me wan' go home)
Day, me say day, me say day, me say day, me say day, me say day-ay-ay-o
(Daylight come and me wan' go home

Links:

"Cruise Missile," by Oska Educational Systems, with George W. Bush and Colin Powell as performers. (Follow the link to "Cards-n-Toons" and further to "Humor" pop-up.)
Misplaced Comedy Group MP3 album, The Afghan Files, including "The Bin Laden (Banana Boat) Song."

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