Sunday, September 1, 2013

"L'annee Passee", The Calypso Song That Became "Rum And Coca Cola"

Edited by Azizi Powell

This post presents information about the Trinidadian song "L'annee Passee", whose melody was used for the 1906 Caribbean Calyso song "Rum And Coca Cola". After a New York court battle, the credit for the popular American song "Rum And Coca Cola" was given to that song's Trinidadian composers and lyricist.

The content of this post is presented for historical, entertainment, and aesthetic purposes.

All copyrights remain with their owners.

""L'Année Passée", meaning "Yesterday" (lit. Last year), is the true story of a girl named Mathilda Soye. She was the daughter of a very prominent Trinidad family and was educated at a Convent school. She fell in love with a man "in the street", a "common" fellow, who was no good. She lived with him for some time and then he made her work as a prostitute. The song was written in French Patois and was a lament of the girl on how just the other day she was a little girl and now she was a prostitute, walking the street.

This story became known in 1905 and Lionel Belasco, who was a young man at that time, composed the song "L'Année Passée" [in 1906], which told that story. It is common practice in Trinidad to compose calypsos dealing with whatever social/political events happened in that year."...

"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.[1]

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.[2] 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.[3] (The true credits for music and lyrics were restored in a plagiarism lawsuit won by attorney Louis Nizer, the account of which can be read in his book, My Life in Court.)"
Click for information about Lionel Belasco.

Click for information about Lord Invader (Rupert Grant).

(A "Calypso" by Massie Patterson and Lionel Belasco
English version by Olga Paul)

L'année passée moen té yon fille,
Moen té yon fille L'en caille mama moen,
L'année cela moen c'est yon femme
Moen c'est un' femme a sur la rue.-

Femme la se-coué corps moen ké baou,
Femme la se-coué corps moen ké baou,
Femme la se-coué moen ké baou,
Moen ké baou moen ké baou
Tout ça qui doux.

Temps Martinique té pris du fé
Yo té cherché Man o' Wa',
Pour sauvéces Mart'niquens
Pour mené yo Port-d'Espagne.

Last year I was a little girl
Living with my dear mother at home;
This year I am a woman though,
On the streets you will find me roam.

I have learned to dance and I'm fair,
I have learned to dance and I'm fair,
I have learned to dance and I'm fair,
And I'm fair, and I'm fair;
My steps are rare.

When Martinique was all in flames,
They looked for a Man o' War,
Hoped to save the people there,
Port -f Spain they were aiming for.-

"Free transcription by Maurice Baron." Sheet music labeled Allegretto grazioso, voice and piano 2/4. Pages 22-23.

Copyright, 1943 by M. Baron Co., New York. "Calypso Songs of the West Indies," 1943, Massie Patterson and Lionel Belasco, Free transcription by Maurice Baron, ASCAP.

The Foreward by M. Baron says "The editor wishes to make acknowledgement to Miss Massie Patterson and Lionel Belasco, collectors of these authentic "Calypso" songs from the lip of the Lesser Antilles natives; also to Miss Olga Paul for her expert English version of the Creole lyrics."...

Source: posted by Q, Date 27 Jan 04
Here's a link to a brief midi [sound file] of "L'Annee Passee" that was included in that comment:

A link to a sound file of "Rum And Coca Cola" was also included in that comment. Although that link is no longer viable, there are a number of YouTube examples of that song, including at least one sound file of the original lyricist Lord Invader, and several sound files of the Andrews Sisters record.

I've not been able to find a YouTube entry for the Caribbean song "L'Annee Passee".


Lord Invader - Rum and coca cola (audio)

calypzombie85, Uploaded on Oct 1, 2009
(Lord Invader)

Since the Yankees came to Trinidad
They have the young girls going mad.
The young girls say they treat them nice.
And they give them a better price.
They buy rum and coca cola
Go down Point Cumana
Both mother and daughter
Working for the Yankee dollar.

I had a little mopsy the other day
Her mother came and took her away.
Then her mother and her sisters
Went in a car with some soldiers
They buy rum and coca cola etc.

There are some aristos in Port-of-Spain
I know them well, I wont call names.
In the day they wouldn't give you a right.
But you can see them with the foreigners late at night.

A couple got married one afternoon
And went to go to Mayaro on a honeymoon.
The very night the wife went with a Yankee lad
And the stupid husband went staring mad.

Inspector Jory did a good job
At St. James he raid a recreation club
That was carrying on the brothel
The condition in which we found the girl I cannot tell.


The Andrews Sisters - Rum and Coca Cola

beyoncetyratina·Uploaded on Oct 15, 2010

Update (08/18/11): This song WAS originally by a Trinidadian by the name "Lord Invader". His version is quite great too, but the lyrics are much different...

And you guys stop fighting about it... What ever you are fighting about, both versions were WONDERFUL in their own rights. And yes, they went to court, Lord Invader won.
Click for lyrics to the Andrew Sisters' version of Rum And Coca Cola

Thanks to the composers and lyricists of "L'Annee Passee" and "Rum And Coca Cola". Thanks also to all those who are quoted in this post, and thanks to the publishers of these examples on YouTube.

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  1. Thank you so much for this information. It is very interesting. I've been searching about the origins of this song unfortunately I haven't found a video, a file or a post with the "L'ANNEE PASSEE" song. I hope somebody can do it and share it. I just have a doubt, do you think in Trinidad or Martinica the people continue singing the song, perhaps as popular song?, could be interesting recording it.

    1. Thanks for your comment, Mochilazo Cultural.

      I don't know whether people still sing the "L'Annee Passee" song in the Caribbean or anywhere else. If there's no video or online information about that song being currently sung, it's unlikely that its still being sung as a popular song.
      But, hopefully. someone from the Caribbean will read this and share some information about this.