Song Lyric Sunday — A Zombie By Any Other Name

For this week’s Song Lyric Sunday prompt, Jim Adams has given us the lighthearted themes of Carnival, Festival, Gala, Jamboree, and Party. Naturally, the first thing that came to mind was the song “Jumbie Jamberee.”

Say what? Never heard of that song? Of course you have. Most people know the song as either “Zombie Jamboree” or “Back to Back.” And probably with the version from either The Kingston Trio or Harry Belafonte.

Here’s the Kingston Trio version:

And here’s Harry Belafonte’s version:

“Jumbie Jamberee” was a calypso song credited to Conrad Eugene Mauge, Jr., which was the stage name of Winston O’Connor, who was born in Tobago. Another one of O’Connor’s stage names was Lord Intruder, and that was the name the song was initially released under in 1953.

Intruder was allegedly poking fun at expatriate Caribbeans (like Belafonte’s parents) who lived in New York in his song. Hence the Long Island locale of the song.

The Kingston Trio recorded “Zombie Jamboree” on their …from the Hungry i and Stereo Concert albums, both released in early 1959. Harry Belafonte recorded five versions of the song (in 1962, 1964, 1966, 1972 and 1974). It first appeared on Belafonte’s The Many Moods of Belafonte and later became one of his signature songs.

The introduction to the Kingston Trio’s version humorously credits “Lord Invader and his Twelve Penetrators” with authorship of the song instead of Lord Intruder. There really was a calypso singer named Lord Invader, but he didn’t write “Jamboree.” And the 12 Penetrators never existed

The oldest versions of the song refer to a jumbie jamboree. Jumbies are evil spirits who were thought to cause wild dancing in their victims. The song’s references to Carnival also suggest a connection to the Moko jumbie, a protecting spirit figure represented during Carnival on Trinidad by stilt walkers and dancers. The switch to “Zombie Jamboree” occurred very early with King Flash’s version with those lyrics coming out in 1956, only three years after “Jumbie Jamberee” first appeared.

Here are the lyrics to “Zombie Jamboree.”

Well, now, back to back, belly to belly, well, I don’t give a damn ’cause I done that already, back to back
Belly to belly at the zombie jamboree
Belly to belly at the zombie jamboree
(Now hear the chorus)
(You can feel that)
(Oh, what a good game)
(You’re all alone, you know)

Zombie jamboree took place in a New York cemetery (Where?)
Zombie jamboree took place in Long Island cemetery
Zombies from all parts of the island (Where?)
Some of them are great calypsonians (Some)
Since the season was Carnival they got together in bacchanal. Oh, what ya’ doin’?

Well, now, back to back, belly to belly, well, I don’t give a damn ’cause I done that already, back to back
Belly to belly at the zombie jamboree
Belly to belly at the zombie jamboree

One female zombie wouldn’t behave
She say she want me for a slave
In the one hand she’s holding a quart of wine, in the other she’s pointing that she’ll be mine
Well, believe me folks, I had to run (Why?)
A husband of a zombie ain’t no fun! (Don’t knock it!)
I says, “Oh, no, my turtle dove, that old bag of bones I cannot love.” Oh, what you doin’?

Well, now, back to back, belly to belly, well, I don’t give a damn ’cause I done that already, back to back
Belly to belly at the zombie jamboree
Belly to belly at the zombie jamboree

Right then and there she raise her feet
“I’m a-going to catch you now, my sweet
I’m gonna make you call me ‘Sweetie Pie'”
I says “Oh, no, get back, you lie!”
“I may be lyin’ but you will see (What?)
After you kiss this dead zombie.” (Blah!)
Well, I never seen such a horror in my life
Can you imagine me with a zombie wife? (Yes!)

Well, now, back to back, belly to belly, well, I don’t give a damn ’cause I done that already, back to back
Belly to belly at the zombie jamboree
Belly to belly at the zombie jamboree

19 thoughts on “Song Lyric Sunday — A Zombie By Any Other Name

  1. Nope, Not Pam September 5, 2021 / 3:19 am

    It’s interesting how songs become synonymous with a singer

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Lou Carreras September 5, 2021 / 4:33 am

    That brought back memories of Greenwich Village, and the Kingston Trio. Thanks!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. ellacraigwrites September 5, 2021 / 5:10 am

    This is such a cool song! And there’s another version out there by The Spinners

    Note: this is not the American group (they had to go by the name of The Detroit Spinners in the UK) but a British folk quartet renowned for their Aran jumpers (sweaters) and my dad being their number one fan.

    Here’s the link, if you’re feeling brave…

    Liked by 1 person

  4. liz BlackX September 5, 2021 / 5:16 am

    A great fun song, I’m not sure I I ever heard it before, definitely never looked at the lyrics.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Maggie September 5, 2021 / 6:22 am

    Great choice today. I have a faint recall of the song, but had no idea about the back story.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. newepicauthor September 5, 2021 / 7:21 am

    Bob Shane, the last surviving original member of the Kingston Trio died last year. I feel like I want to do the Limbo dance after listening to this song, and I guess all Calypso music makes me feel that way. Nice find Fandango, this was fun to listen to.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Stine Writing September 5, 2021 / 7:23 am

    Funny how there was that zombie song so long ago…it seems like zombies became the huge rage not that long ago. Shows how things aren’t necessarily new, just rekindled.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Marleen September 5, 2021 / 10:25 am

    I thought the word jamboree was in the Jungle Book song Bare Necessities, but I guess not.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. J-Dub September 5, 2021 / 1:58 pm

    I was so sure jamboree would be to obscure to find. New to me and I like it.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. aisasami September 12, 2021 / 6:17 am

    I may have heard of this song before. Was it in any movies?

    Liked by 1 person

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