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World’s First Platinum Album – Calypso (1956)

The first Gold record for an LP was awarded by RCA to Harry Belafonte in 1957 for the album Calypso (1956), the first album to sell over 1,000,000 copies.

Tracks include:

“Day-O” (Banana Boat Song) (William Attaway, Harry Belafonte) – 3:02
“I Do Adore Her” (Lord Burgess) – 2:48
“Jamaica Farewell” (Lord Burgess) – 3:02
“Will His Love Be Like His Rum?” (Attaway, Belafonte) – 2:33
“Dolly Dawn” (Lord Burgess) – 3:13
“Star-O” (Attaway, Belafonte) – 2:02
“The Jack-Ass Song” (Lord Burgess, Attaway) – 2:52
“Hosanna” (Lord Burgess, Attaway) – 2:34
“Come Back Liza” (Lord Burgess, Attaway) – 3:03
“Brown Skin Girl” (Norman Span) – 2:43
“Man Smart (Woman Smarter)” (Norman Span) – 3:31

Origin of Calypso

Calypso rhythms can be traced back to the arrival of the first African slaves brought to work in the sugar plantations of Trinidad. Forbidden to talk to each other, and robbed of all links to family and home, the African slaves began to sing songs. They used calypso, which can be traced back to West African kaiso, as a means of communication and to mock the slave masters.

Trinidad was colonized by the Spanish, received large numbers of French immigrants, and was later ruled by the British. This multi-colonial past has greatly impacted the development of calypso in Trinidad. Many early calypsos were sung in a French-Creole dialect called patois (“pat-was”). These songs, usually led by one individual called a griot, helped to unite the slaves.

Calypso singing competitions, held annually at Carnival time, grew in popularity after the abolition of slavery by the British in the 1830s. (It was the French who brought the tradition of Carnival to Trinidad.) The griot later became known as the chantuelle and today as the calypsonian.

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