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Rum and Coca-Cola by The Andrews Sisters, a fun song that would be a great addition to any Castaway’s “Escape” playlist.
“Rum and Coca-Cola” is the title of a popular calypso. Originally composed by Lord Invader and Lionel Belasco, it was copyrighted in the United States by entertainer Morey Amsterdam and became a huge hit in 1945 for the Andrews Sisters, spending ten weeks at the top of Billboard’s U.S. Pop Singles chart.
Although the song was published in the United States with Amsterdam listed as the lyricist and Jeri Sullavan and Paul Baron as musical composers, the melody had been previously published as the work of Trinidadian calypso composer Lionel Belasco on a song titled “L’Année Passée,” which was in turn based on a folksong from Martinique. The original lyrics to “Rum and Coca-Cola” were written by Rupert Grant, another calypso musician from Trinidad who went by the stage name of Lord Invader. (The true credits for music and lyrics were restored in a plagiarism lawsuit won by famous attorney Louis Nizer, the account of which can be read in his book, My Life in Court.)
According to Lord Invader…
“Calypso is the folklore of Trinidad, a style of poetry, telling about current events in song. Back home in the West Indies, Trinidad, where I’m from, it’s a small island, I’m proud of it. I was traveling on a bus, someplace they call Point Cumana, a bathing resort, and I happened to see the G.I.s in the American social invasion in the West Indies, Trinidad. You know the girls used to get the candies and stuff like that, and they go to the canteens with the boys and so on, have fun. So I noticed since the G.I.s came over there, they really generally chase with soda, ordinary soda, but their chaser was Rum and Coke. They drink rum, and they like Coca-Cola as a chaser, so I studied that as an idea of a song, and Morey Amsterdam had the nerve to say that he composed that song back here.”
The song became a local hit and was at the peak of its popularity when Amsterdam visited the island in September 1943 as part of a U.S.O. tour. Although he subsequently claimed never to have heard the song during the month he spent on the island, the lyrics to his version are clearly based on the Lord Invader version, with the music and chorus being virtually identical. However, Amsterdam’s version strips the song of its social commentary. The Lord Invader version laments that U.S. soldiers are debauching local women, who “saw that the Yankees treat them nice / and they give them a better price.” Its final stanza describes a newlywed couple whose marriage is ruined when “the bride run away with a soldier lad / and the stupid husband went staring mad.” The Amsterdam version also hints that women are prostituting themselves, preserving the Lord Invader chorus which says, “Both mother and daughter / Working for the Yankee dollar.”
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