"COME MISTER TALL-Y-MAN, TALL-Y ME BANANA"
(BELAFONTE, Harry) ATTAWAY, William. Calypso Song Book. New York: McGraw-Hill, (1957). Tall quarto, original blue, gold and rose cloth, original pictorial dust jacket. $550.
First edition of African American novelist Attaway's celebration of the African Caribbean tradition in music featuring 26 songs, including "Day-O" and other classics on the breakthrough 1956 Belafonte album, Calypso, which was a collaboration between Attaway, Belafonte, Lord Burgess and others, beautifully illustrated by William Charmatz, in original dust jacket.
Attaway, "an exceedingly important black fictive voice of his generation," is best known for his novels, Let Me Breathe Thunder (1939) and Blood on the Forge (1941) (Yarborough in Writers of the Black Chicago Renaissance, 30). After their publication and following his service in WWII, Attaway met Harry Belafonte and the two quickly forged a lifelong friendship and musical collaboration. When Attaway became a staff writer at NBC, he created an episode of the Colgate Comedy Hour that featured Belafonte, and "the two decided on a Caribbean music theme." Soon Attaway brought in singer-songwriter Lord Burgess (Irving Burgie) and the trio camped out at a New York hotel, where they worked on the songs and especially "fiddled around with 'Day-O,' which was known at the time as 'The Banana Boat Song.'" It became the lead song on Belafonte's breakthrough 1956 album, Calypso, featuring extensive liner notes by Attaway. "In the annals of pop-music history, 1956 is generally thought of as the birth year of rock and roll (as a popular format, at least), but Calypso outsold both self-titled LPs that the 21-year-old- Elvis Presley released that year" (New Yorker).
Attaway's Calypso Song Book was issued soon after the LP and features the tablature for 25 songs, including the LP's "Banana Boat Loader's Song" ("Day-O") and "Man Smart (Woman Smarter)." In his book's opening essay, Attaway highlights "the roots of the Calypso in Africa" and shows how "the music is dramatic proof of the power and durability of the artistic practices that Africans brought with them" (Yarborough, 45, emphasis added). He points out the tradition was especially strong in 18th-century Trinidad, where "African slaves were not permitted to speak as they worked, but they were allowed to sing. The Calypso, sung in a patois to baffle the ears of the masters, was their way of plotting revolt, conveying the local news, or simply getting a corroding hatred out of their systems." With its beat based "on multiple African rhythms… the rhymes in Calypso are beautifully simplified" and the rich musical legacy now "has a permanent place in our own musical tradition." "First Edition" on copyright page. Introduction by Attaway; edited and compiled by Lyle Kenyon Engel. With dust jacket design, double-page color illustration on title page, in-text and two full-page color illustrations by William Charmatz.
Book fine; trace of edge-wear, light toning to spine of colorful near-fine dust jacket.