(NAPSM)—While many Americans may be surprised to learn just where some of the best-known and beloved calypso songs originated, for those in the know, the name Irving Burgie springs to mind.
Burgie is the creator of such songs as “Day-O,” “Jamaica Farewell,” “Island in the Sun” and many more, and his talent and achievements have made for a remarkable life.
Born in Brooklyn in 1924, Burgie served in WWII and went to the famed prestigious Juilliard music school on the GI Bill. In the 1950s he was a professional singer and guitarist at The Blue Angel, the Village Vanguard and many other famous venues. Then he met singer Harry Belafonte. Their association landed the album “Calypso” on the Billboard charts at the No.1 spot, where it remained for 32 weeks and became the first to sell a million copies. In all, Burgie wrote three calypso albums for Harry Belafonte: “Calypso” (1956), “Belafonte Sings of the Caribbean” (1957) and “Jump Up Calypso” (1961).
Burgie’s songs have sold over 100 million copies all over the world, as well as being featured on Broadway, in TV shows, in movies and in many places where people love to sing.
In the 1960s, Burgie wrote the national anthem for the then newly independent island of Barbados, his mother’s homeland. He was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2007. As poet Maya Angelou put it, “Irving Burgie wrote brilliant lyrics that found their way into the ears of people all over the world.”
His life and career are chronicled in his autobiography, “Day-O!!!.” The book, available on Amazon and at Barnes & Noble, is set amid a wider social tapestry that depicts the plight, joys and foibles of one black family growing up in prewar Brooklyn and the broader black struggle leading up to the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s. It documents his meteoric rise to the top echelons of the music business as the songwriter who composed for Harry Belafonte, The Kingston Trio and many more. Burgie’s music has been acclaimed by such notables as actor Sidney Poitier, who noted, “Irving Burgie’s autobiography immediately draws the reader into a life that captures the imagination and holds the interest.”
As for great songs and songwriters to come, Lord Burgie, as he’s also called, has had a hand in that, too. In his honor, The ASCAP Foundation established the Irving Burgie Scholarship funded by Burgie and presented annually to an African-American songwriter from New York City.
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