30,000 Pounds of Bananas

Album: Verities And Balderdash (1974)
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  • This was based on a true story about an accident in Scranton, Pennsylvania where a driver lost control of a truck full of bananas he was delivering. He was killed in the crash, and bananas were strewn all over the place. Sandy Chapin, who was married to Harry from 1968 until he was killed in a car accident in 1981, doesn't like this song at all. She explains how it came about: "That song morphed. It had a life of its own. Originally it was a poem that Harry wrote, it was just words on a page. And early on he was doing different kinds of musical performances with his father, and also his brothers who were in college at the time. So there was a limited time for them to perform. But he did it as a spoken song. And then I guess after the Village Gate days, and the beginning of the contract with Electra, he was going through notebooks and looking for material. He decided to put music to it. And I think the song developed a life of its own from audience reaction. It was a serious poem to begin with on the society's preoccupation with numbers. You have your drivers license and your social security and your credit card, and on and on and on and on. You're just made up of numbers. But it also was a story – a true story that was told to him while he was on a Greyhound bus ride. It's real. The widow still lives in Scranton, Pennsylvania. The original poem started from a preoccupation with numbers, and then it got to be a kind of performance piece that was kind of tragicomedy. Very difficult, I thought." (Read more in our interview with Sandy Chapin.)
  • On his Greatest Stories live album, Chapin says: "This song starts off with an absolutely brilliant Chet Atkins guitar lick that took me about 4 hours to steal."
  • In 1402 Portuguese explorers discovered bananas in Western Africa and took them to the Canary Islands. The word "banana" is the native word for the fruit in Guinea. The Europeans first came across bananas when in the early 15th century Portuguese explorers discovered bananas in Western Africa and took them to the Canary Islands. The word "banana" is the native word for the fruit in Guinea. Many North Americans got their first taste of bananas at the 1877 US Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia. Each banana was wrapped in foil and sold for 10 cents. (both the above from the book Food for Thought: Extraordinary Little Chronicles of the World by Ed Pearce)

Comments: 11

  • Barry from Sauquoit, NyFifty years ago today {March 18th, 1965} on Moosic Street in Scranton, Pennsylvania the above accident took place.
  • Jim from Sumter, ScConsidering how Harry Chapin died, karma is a bitch! I'll bet if someone made a song about his death, his family would demand royalties under pain of lawsuit.
  • Jim from Sumter, ScI definitely think that Harry should have donated some of the song proceeds to the family of the driver. World hunger can wait.
  • Erin from Coaldale, PaSO, did he give the proceeds from 30,000 Pounds of Bananas to the widow and her children? I'm very curious after reading how he gave somuch to "end world hunger"...??????????
  • Nady from Adelaide, AustraliaI like the way he says bananas.. "ba-na-nas" it's a little bit cute:)
  • Don from Scranton, PaI was one of the 1st to arrive on the scene of this accident.. The driver's name was Eugene Sesky and he was not decapitated.. He hit the brick post of a porch head first and his skull was crushed half way to his neck.. The truck was a green Brockway and the motor was completely out and on the ground. there were a number of people injured in vehicles he sideswiped on the way down Moosic St. but instead of helping the injured most onlookers were busy stealing bananas from the overturned trailer.. I did an "On the Scene" report from a private residence via telephone for station WARM in Scranton.. Believe me. I'll be able to see the whole thing until the day I die..And in a more bazaar fact.. I saw the accident years later in which Harry Chapin was killed when his car was run over by a tractor trailer on the Long Island Expressway.. You can believe this or not but it is all fact.. And an aside to Pete.. You're close.. It was going to the A&P wharehouse on Genet St.... In another aside... Mr.Sesky had "low bridged" a trailer on Luzerne St not to long before his fateful ride down Moosic St.
  • Chris from Scranton, PaScranton Rules!
  • Mike from Warwick, RiHarry performed the song live in Pawtucket, RI at a show I attended in 1977...even did the part where his brother Steve says - "Harry, it sucks!" - when asked about the origina ending of the song. My Dad and I still use that line when something really sucks - Classic stuff....As Harry says, the song has a great Chet Atkins guitar lick that took him hours to master....as a kid, I loved the real ending - "just imagine, 30,000 pounds of bananas....yes, there were 30,000 pounds of mashed bananas".
  • Matt from Scranton, PaHarry did not perform the song live in Scranton. When he performed here shortly before his death, he was asked not to perform the song in case any relatives of the deceased were in attendance.
  • Pete from Carbondale, Pathe truck was coming down Moosic street (the hill that leads into scranton pennsylvania)and was en route to an A&P supermarket on Janette street,but as the song goes,it never made it.
  • Garry from Anchorage, AkHarry Chapin raised millions of dollars through benefit concerts to further his commitment to end world hunger. He was appointed by President Carter to the Commission on World Hunger.
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