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10 Songs About Banana Republics

Music is a diverse form of expression that takes in many styles. It's a popular field that can only be briefly sampled in a short article.

The term "Banana Republic" is applied to a handful of Central American countries, where the major export crop is bananas.

The term "Banana Republic" is applied to a handful of Central American countries, where the major export crop is bananas.

1. "Banana Republics" by Steve Goodman

Steve Goodman was just 36 years old when he succumbed to leukemia. It was a death that shocked the music world, yet despite his passing at such a young age, Steve managed to leave behind a treasure trove of wonderful songs.

The particular number featured here is called "Banana Republics." The popular tune may have helped spark a whole genre of musicians who perform and sing under the label Trop Rock. Jimmy Buffett actually recorded "Banana Republics" shortly after Steve first released the song in 1976. Since then, the cat has been out of the bag. Escape to the subtropics is a good thing, especially if you are a musician.

2. "Cowboy in the Jungle" by Jimmy Buffett

Jimmy Buffett wrote this Parrot Head favorite back in 1978, during the height of his popularity. The song puts the protagonist in an unfamiliar position and place in South America. True to Buffett form, the cowboy in the song will have to rely on his wits and humor in order to survive.

3. "Boat in Belize" by Kelly McGuire

Kelly McGuire is just one of the many Americans who has found his way down to Belize and then kept going back year after year. In the process, he heard many stories and decided to put this one into music. As is the case with many songs written about the region, a boat plays a major role in the story.

Bananas grow in bunches and are harvested, while still green in color

Bananas grow in bunches and are harvested, while still green in color

4. "La Isla Bonita" by Madonna

Here's a story of another lonely, yet adventuresome American, traveling to the Caribbean and finding romance. The only difference in this story is that the traveler is a woman—Madonna, to be exact. Please note that though the song is about San Pedro Island in Belize, the architecture and scenery in the video appear to be from Havana or someplace similar.

5. "Lawyers, Guns and Money" by Warren Zevon

Warren Zevon wrote "Lawyers, Guns and Money" back in 1978, when Steve Goodman was still alive. In this popular hit, the tale of woe is perhaps a little bit darker than Goodman's 1976 hit, as the male adventurer is calling upon his dad to get him out of the perilous mess that he has encountered in Cuba and Honduras.

6. "Chiquita Banana Song" by The Terry Twins

Since the late 1800s, the banana has been an extraordinarily popular food item in the United States. Originally a street vendor item sold in small quantities, the banana gained massive popularity as the U.S. population soared. To satisfy the demand, banana growers in Latin America responded by creating large plantations in Central America and the Caribbean.

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Some of this success has worn off on the Terry Twins, who, back in 1942, sang about the popular fruit while wearing stylish and colorful Latina dresses. This song was later featured in a popular commercial about bananas during World War II.

7. "The Boat Drunks" by Tropical Standard Time

Here's another group of talented musicians who have managed to find a way to spend much of their musical days in the subtropics. They are called "The Boat Drunks," and they have definitely followed the Tiki bar circuit around the Atlantic Basin.

8. "Sally Brown" by Laurel Aitken

A Kukumaka stick, now that sounds really bad, like there's some kind of voodoo attached to it. In reality, the item in question is made from the wood of the Coco-Macca tree, which has really hard wood. I definitely wouldn't want to get hit by one, especially if Sally Brown is on the other end.

Enjoy this fun, lively song from one of the grandfathers of ska, Laurel Aitkin, who passed away in 2005 at age 78. Backing him on this 1989 performance are the Loafers from London.

9. "Living It Up" by Damian Marley

In some ways, Jamaica beat the Banana Republic blues by exporting Reggae music. Without a doubt, the king of Reggae was the legendary Bob Marley, who passed away in 1981. Reportedly, his last words to his son, Ziggy were "money can't buy life."

In the first tract, Ziggy contemplates the reality of rich and poor, as he aptly displays some of the musical skills he acquired from his father.

10. "One Chance" by Octane (Featuring Ginjah)

In contrast, this tune by Octane and Ginjah shows a much grittier side to island life.

Bonus Track: "Capitalism Gone Mad" by Mighty Sparrow

After the island of Trinidad experienced a wicked inflationary spiral in the latter part of the 20th century, Mighty Sparrow put together this song that describes some of the hardships island residents had to face with the rapidly rising prices of basic goods.

© 2019 Harry Nielsen

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