Breedloves's Folk Songs



Jamaica Farewell” is a famous calypso about the beauties of the West Indian Islands. The
lyrics for the song were written by Lord Burgess (Irving Burgie). Lord Burgess was born
in Brooklyn, New York in 1926. His mother was from Barbados and his father was from
Virginia. The song first appeared on Harry Belafonte‘s phenomenally successful album
Calypso. It reached number fourteen on Billboard‘s Pop chart. Though many, including
Belafonte himself, have said that the song was popular in the West Indies since long
before Burgess, it is believed that Burgess compiled and modified the song from many
folk pieces to make a new song, and it is indubitable that it was Belafonte who
popularized the song outside the Caribbean Islands. Burgess acknowledged his use of the
tune of another calypso, “Iron Bar”. Other well-known singers of “Jamaica Farewell”
include Sir Lancelot, Jimmy Buffett and Carly Simon.
The term ackee rice” found in the lyrics refers to the fruit of a tropical tree indigenous to
the Ivory Coast and Gold Coast of West Africa; taken to Jamaica in 1793. It has some
poisonous properties, yet if properly prepared the fruit is often used as a food additive.
Down the way where the nights are gay
And the sun shines daily on the mountain top
I took a trip on a sailing ship
And when I reached Jamaica I made a stop
But I’m sad to say, I’m on my way
Won’t be back for many a day
My heart is down, my head is turning around
I had to leave a little girl in Kingston town
Sounds of laughter everywhere
And the dancing girls swaying to and fro
I must declare that my heart is there
Though I’ve been from Maine to Mexico
Down at the market you can hear
Ladies cry out while on their head they bear
Ackie rice and salt fish is nice
And the rum is good any time of year

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