The SHOF was saddened to learn of the passing of Irving Burgie, 2007 SHOF Inductee and former member of the board of directors of the SHOF.
Brooklyn-born songwriter Irving Burgie has long been acknowledged as one of the greatest composers of Caribbean music, penning the lyrics to the national anthem for his mother’s homeland of Barbados after the island nation achieved independence on November 30, 1966, the place of his introduction to Caribbean folklore. His songs sold over 100 million records throughout the world, and he wrote classic Caribbean standards including such familiar hits as "Day-O," "Jamaica Farewell," "Island In The Sun," "Angelina," and co-wrote "Mary's Boy Child." Among the artists who recorded his songs were Jimmy Buffett, the Kingston Trio, Brian Wilson, Carly Simon, Chuck Berry and Sam Cooke.
Irving Burgie wrote some 35 songs recorded by Harry Belafonte, including 8 of the 11 songs on Harry's 1956 album, Calypso (the first album in America to sell over one million copies). Irving penned "The Seine," "El Matador," and "The Wanderer" for the Kingston Trio, and his song "Day-O" appeared in the "We Are The World" video that was featured in the hit film Beetlejuice. "Day-O" was also the wake-up call for the astronauts on the Space Shuttle Atlantis in outer space in 1997.
As a child, Burgie was a stickball player and a fan of the beach at Coney Island. He played in a local drum and bugle corps, but never took music seriously until he returned from serving in an all-black U.S. Army battalion during World War II. Using the G.I. Bill, he majored in voice at the prestigious Juilliard School and learned how to play guitar before launching his prodigious career as a singer/guitarist at venues like the Village Vanguard in Manhattan, using the stage name "Lord Burgess."
His autobiography Day-O!!! was was released in 2007.
Burgie passed away on Friday, November 29, 2019 at the age of 95, and his death was announced Saturday by Barbados Prime Minister Mia Amor Mottley at the nation’s Independence Day Parade. A moment of silence was observed in his honor.