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Who wrote Jamaica farewell?

When it comes to iconic songs of the Caribbean, “Jamaica Farewell” is definitely one of them. This beautiful tune, often associated with the famous singer Harry Belafonte, has captured the hearts and imaginations of people all around the world. But who is the true author of this song? In this blog post, we’ll explore the origins of “Jamaica Farewell” and discover the person behind the lyrics.

The Origins of Jamaica Farewell

To understand who wrote “Jamaica Farewell,” we need to take a trip back in time to the early 1950s. At that time, Harry Belafonte was a rising star in the world of music, thanks in part to his renditions of songs that celebrated Caribbean culture. One such song was “Jamaica Farewell,” which he recorded in 1956 for his album “Calypso.”

Although Belafonte popularized the song, he did not write it. Instead, “Jamaica Farewell” was adapted from a traditional Jamaican call-and-response tune by a songwriter named Irving Burgie.

The Life and Career of Irving Burgie

Irving Burgie was a half-Barbadian, Brooklyn-born songwriter who wrote or co-wrote more than 30 songs for Belafonte. He drew on Caribbean folk music for hits including “Jamaica Farewell” and “Island in the Sun.”

Burgie was born in 1924 and grew up in a musical family. He learned to play the piano and began writing songs at a young age. His first big break came when he was drafted into the US Army during World War II. While serving in the Pacific Theater, he wrote songs to entertain his fellow soldiers and caught the attention of the renowned orchestra leader Harry James.

After the war, Burgie studied at the Juilliard School of Music and began working as a songwriter. In the early 1950s, he traveled to the Caribbean to study the traditional music of the region. It was there that he discovered the song that would become “Jamaica Farewell.”

Over the years, Burgie became a prolific songwriter and a powerful advocate for Caribbean culture. In addition to his work with Belafonte, he wrote songs for other popular artists, including Nat King Cole, Miriam Makeba, and Roberta Flack. He also wrote the theme song for the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF).

In 2007, the government of Barbados awarded Burgie its highest honor, the Order of the British Empire, in recognition of his contributions to music and culture.

The Legacy of Jamaica Farewell

“Jamaica Farewell” has remained popular long after its initial release. The song has been covered by numerous artists over the years, including Bob Dylan, Carly Simon, and Jimmy Buffett. It has also been featured in movies, TV shows, and advertisements, making it one of the most recognizable songs in Caribbean culture.

But its true legacy lies in its ability to capture the spirit of the Caribbean. With its simple melody and evocative lyrics, “Jamaica Farewell” transports listeners to a world of sunny beaches, tropical breezes, and laid-back living. It’s a song that celebrates the beauty and resilience of Caribbean culture, and a reminder of the contributions of artists like Irving Burgie who helped bring that culture to the world stage.


Although “Jamaica Farewell” is often associated with Harry Belafonte, it’s important to remember the songwriter behind the song. Irving Burgie’s contributions to Caribbean culture and music are immeasurable, and his legacy continues to inspire artists and audiences alike. “Jamaica Farewell” may be just one song in his vast catalog, but it remains a testament to his talent and the enduring power of Caribbean music.


What is the story behind Jamaica Farewell song?

“Jamaica Farewell” is a mento song that has been popularized all over the world. The lyrics of the song were written by Lord Burgess (Irving Burgie), who was a renowned American composer. The song was first recorded in 1957 by the Trinidadian singer Harry Belafonte and since then, it has become one of the most popular folk songs of the Caribbean.

The story behind the “Jamaica Farewell” song goes back to the 1930s, when Irving Burgie was a young boy growing up in Brooklyn, New York. He was deeply influenced by the music and culture of his mother’s homeland of Barbados, which inspired him to become a songwriter. In the late 1940s, he started to work on a song about his favorite Caribbean island, Jamaica.

The idea for “Jamaica Farewell” came to Burgie after he took a trip to the Caribbean with his friend, the singer and songwriter Harry Belafonte. Burgie was struck by the beauty of the islands and their rich culture. He wanted to capture this in a song that celebrated the Caribbean way of life.

Burgie started to work on the lyrics for “Jamaica Farewell” in the early 1950s. The song is a tribute to the joys of island life, with its images of beautiful beaches, swaying palm trees, and the warm, gentle breezes. The song tells the story of a man who must leave the island he loves and bids farewell to his friends, promising to return to the island someday.

When Harry Belafonte heard “Jamaica Farewell”, he knew immediately that the song would be a hit. He recorded it in 1957 as part of his album, “Calypso”, which became a best-seller in the United States and Europe. The song’s success helped to popularize the sound of mento, a traditional Caribbean music genre that influenced later styles such as ska and reggae.

Over the years, “Jamaica Farewell” has been covered by many artists from different parts of the world. The song’s appeal lies in its catchy melody and the romantic, nostalgic lyrics that evoke the idyllic Caribbean lifestyle. Today, it remains a beloved classic that celebrates the culture and the people of the Caribbean.

Is Harry Belafonte from Jamaica?

Yes, Harry Belafonte is from Jamaica. Though he was born in New York City, his parents were both Jamaican-born. His father, Harold George Bellanfanti Sr., was a chef and his mother, Melvine Love, was a housekeeper. Belafonte was raised in the predominantly Black community of Harlem, but he has spoken often about his Jamaican roots and his love for the country. In fact, his connection to Jamaica has been a significant part of his life and his career. He has been a strong advocate for Jamaican causes, including supporting the Jamaican independence movement in the 1960s and helping to bring attention to environmental issues affecting the island. Belafonte has even been honored by the Jamaican government for his contributions to the country. So while he may have been born in the United States, there is no denying that Jamaica has played a pivotal role in shaping his identity and his legacy.

Who was the famous Jamaican singer?

One of the most famous Jamaican singers of all time was Bob Marley. Born in Nine Mile, Jamaica in 1945, Marley started his music career with his backing band, The Wailers, in the 1960s. He quickly rose to fame in Jamaica, and then around the world, with his unique blend of reggae music that mixed soul, blues, and rock influences.

Marley’s songs were known for their catchy rhythms and melodies, but also for their political messages. He often sang about the struggles of the poor, the injustices of society, and the need for peace and love in the world. Some of his most famous songs include “No Woman No Cry,” “One Love,” and “Redemption Song.” Many of these songs have become classic anthems for social justice and equality.

Marley’s impact on music and culture is immeasurable. He is often credited with bringing reggae music to a global audience, and is still widely celebrated around the world today, decades after his death in 1981. His influence can be heard in the work of countless artists who have followed in his footsteps, and his message of peace and love continues to inspire people of all ages and backgrounds.