How ‘Banana Boat (Day O)’ Became Associated With Halloween and 1 Tim Burton-Inspired Musical

It’s a movie with giant snakes and gags. Although calypso music may seem like an odd addition to Beetlejuice, songs like “Banana Boat (Day-O)” fit perfectly with the creepy setting of this 1980s flick.

Here’s what we know about the upbeat songs featured in this movie and its corresponding Broadway musical.

Alex Brightman and the cast of 'Beetlejuice' perform on stage during the 2019 Tony Awards
Alex Brightman and the cast of ‘Beetlejuice’ perform on stage during the 2019 Tony Awards | Theo Wargo/Getty Images for Tony Awards Productions

‘Beetlejuice’ introduced viewers to a new perspective of death and the afterlife

Lydia dreamed of an unusual life. However, she didn’t expect a creepy and somewhat perverted spirit would take over her home. The 1988 film Beetlejuice starred Michael Keaton as the title character. 

It also featured well-known actors like Winona Ryder, Geena Davis, Catherine O’Hara, and Alec Baldwin. There were also some musical moments featured in the comedy. That includes several songs popularized by calypso singer Belafonte. 

This movie isn’t exactly a musical, although it does feature an original instrumental soundtrack. Some songs popularized by Harry Belafonte also appear at random moments throughout this film. 

In an attempt to frighten unwanted dinner guests, two ghosts put on a production of “Banana Boat (Day-O).” Or rather, they force the mortals to lip-sync to this iconic song. 

In addition to “Banana Boat (Day-O,)” Belafonte’s “Jump in the Line” plays toward the end of the film. At that point, Lydia was celebrating her new life and her newfound friends, complete with some ghostly special effects and lip-syncing. 

Why does this creepy death-filled story feature calypso music?

“It’s a ghost story taking place in a New England–style house,” screenwriter Larry Wilson said during an interview with Pitchfork. “Then here comes Harry Belafonte! Why? Why not? That’s the secret of Beetlejuice. No one was afraid to take things to the most most far-out places.”

Since Beetlejuice’s premiere (and the subsequent debut of Beetlejuice: The Musical), “Banana Boat (Day-O) became associated with Halloween and all things spooky. This song even appears in the film’s stage adaptation, earning over 7 million Spotify plays on the musical’s official soundtrack. 

The ‘Beetlejuice’ musical features original songs performed by characters like Lydia

In 2018, decades following the release of its original movie, a stage version of Beetlejuice premiered in New York City’s Broadway. Of course, it wouldn’t be Beetlejuice without an adaptation of Belafonte’s “Banana Boat (Day-O).”

Since its Spotify debut, songs like “The Whole ‘Being Dead’ Thing,” “Dead Mom,” “What I Know Now,” and “Say My Name” earning millions of plays on the music platform. Beetlejuice – The Musical also earned eight Tony Award nominations, including one for “Best Musical.” 

After an untimely exit due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, Beetlejuice – The Musical returns to Broadway in 2022. Until then, the movie version of Tim Burton’s story is available on Amazon Prime Video. Beetlejuice also plays periodically in conjunction with Freeform’s “31 Nights of Halloween.”

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