Irving Burgie, also known to many as Lord Burgess, was the life behind the early music exposure that America had to Caribbean music. Burgie, born on July 28th, 1924 in Brooklyn, NY, wrote a total of 34 songs for Harry Belafonte. On the Calypso album, which included Day-O, Burgie wrote 8 out of 11 songs on that album.
Day-O was also featured in the Beetlejuice movie clip shown below which is still famous today.
Burgie’s Bajan roots came from his mother and his father was from Virginia. While studying at Juilliard School after serving in World War II, Burgie would go around in New York City clubs singing Caribbean songs that he learned as a child using “Lord Burgess” as his stage name. He also met Harry Belafonte while studying at Juilliard.
Much of Burgie's success was not just in his music and how he allowed the world into some Caribbean folklore, it was also in his efforts to give back and be involved with his community. He supported civil rights– notably his support of Shirley Chisolm, the first African-American elected to U.S. Congress. He also funded a magazine start-up in Harlem called The Urbanite.
Some Fun Facts to Know:
- Day-O was named “Song of the Century” in 2006 at the Annual Sunshine Awards.
- Irving Burgie wrote the National Anthem for Barbados. Barbados adopted the Anthem once independence was gained in 1966.
- Day-O is a traditional Jamaican song that was sung by dock workers loading bananas onto ships.
- He sold over 100 million songs by 1983.
- In 1989, Burgie was awarded an honorary Doctorate of Letters Degree from the University Of The West Indies.
- The ASCAP Foundation established the Irving Burgie Scholarship, which is presented annually to an African-American songwriter from New York City.
Irving Burgie recently passed on Friday, November 29th at his home in Queens, NY. It's so amazing to witness someone accomplish so much with a pure heart. His creative legacy continues to thrive and will forever be an inspiration to those who follow his shoes. His community and activist contributions will continue to be the cornerstone of what he represented– a man of character. May your soul rest in power Burgie!
Image from NY Daily News.
Sources: Wikipedia, Heavy.com and Irvingburgie.com