Irving Burgie (pronounced; Bur'jee) is best known as the writer of such classic calypso tunes as "Day-O" and "Jamaica Farewell." The composer of eight songs on Harry Belafonte's groundbreaking 1956 album Calypso, the first album in the United States to sell one million copies, Burgie went on to write another 28 songs recorded by Belafonte. Additional songs by Burgie, including "The Seine," "El Matador," and "Wish You Were Here" were recorded by such folk acts as the Kingston Trio, Jimmy Buffett, and Miriam Makeba. In 1966, Burgie wrote the lyrics for the National Anthem of Barbados. He inherited his interests in West Indian music from his mother, Viola, who was born in the Barbados, West Indies. His father was born in Virginia. Burgie grew up in a West Indian neighborhood in Brooklyn, NY. A rabid fan of radio's hit parade as a youngster, Burgie's interest in music didn't become serious until he was serving in the U.S. Army in the early '40s. Inspired by an alto saxophone in his troop, he studied music theory and began singing in chapel choirs. Following his discharge, he spent five years studying music at the Juilliard School of Music in New York, the University of Arizona, and the University of Southern California. Returning to New York after his graduation in 1949, he became absorbed by the burgeoning folk music scene and began performing at open-mike hootenannies. From the moment that he began writing songs, Burgie was a success. His first original composition, "Jamaica Farewell," has been recorded by a lengthy list of artists including Belafonte and Tom Rush. His song "Day-O," a major hit for Belafonte, has been featured in television and film, including the dinner scene in Beetlejuice. As a performer, Burgie uses the name Lord Burgess, and sings in English, Spanish, Italian, and Hebrew. Burgie helped to organize the United Black Men of Queens County Federation, Inc., a group dedicated to aiding and supporting Afro-American men in Queens, NY, in 1975. Five years later, he began the Irving Burgie Award for Excellence in Literary and/or Creative Arts, an annual award intended to perpetuate the memory of his mother. In 1989, Burgie received an Honorary Doctorate of Letters degree from the University of the West Indies. ~ Craig HarrisPortions of Content Provided by Rovi Corporation.
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