Harry Chapin – 30,000 Pounds of Bananas

When I was looking at msjadeli post for Song Lyric Sunday this song popped into my head. So this is my bonus contribution to Song Lyric Sunday for Jim Adams blog.

From his 1974 album Verities and Balderdash. The song did not chart.

From songfacts.

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.)

30,000 Pounds of Bananas

It was just after dark when the truck started down
The hill that leads into Scranton Pennsylvania.
Carrying thirty thousand pounds of bananas.
Carrying thirty thousand pounds (hit it Big John) of bananas.
He was a young driver,
Just out on his second job.
And he was carrying the next day’s pasty fruits
For everyone in that coal-scarred city
Where children play without despair
In backyard slag-piles and folks manage to eat each day
Just about thirty thousand pounds of bananas.
Yes, just about thirty thousand pounds (scream it again, John) .
He passed a sign that he should have seen,
Saying “shift to low gear, a fifty dollar fine my friend.”
He was thinking perhaps about the warm-breathed woman
Who was waiting at the journey’s end.
He started down the two mile drop,
The curving road that wound from the top of the hill.
He was pushing on through the shortening miles that ran down to the depot.
Just a few more miles to go,
Then he’d go home and have her ease his long, cramped day away.
And the smell of thirty thousand pounds of bananas.
Yes the smell of thirty thousand pounds of bananas.
He was picking speed as the city spread its twinkling lights below him.
But he paid no heed as the shivering thoughts of the nights
Delights went through him.
His foot nudged the brakes to slow him down.
But the pedal floored easy without a sound.
He said “Christ!”
It was funny how he had named the only man who could save him now.
He was trapped inside a dead-end hellslide,
Riding on his fear-hunched back
Was every one of those yellow green
I’m telling you thirty thousand pounds of bananas.
Yes, there were thirty thousand pounds of bananas.
He barely made the sweeping curve that led into the steepest grade.
And he missed the thankful passing bus at ninety miles an hour.
And he said “God, make it a dream!”
As he rode his last ride down.
And he said “God, make it a dream!”
As he rode his last ride down.
And he sideswiped nineteen neat parked cars,
Clipped off thirteen telephone poles,
Hit two houses, bruised eight trees,
And Blue-Crossed seven people.
It was then he lost his head,
Not to mention an arm or two before he stopped.
And he slid for four hundred yards
Along the hill that leads into Scranton, Pennsylvania.
All those thirty thousand pounds of bananas.
You know the man who told me about it on the bus,
As it went up the hill out of Scranton, Pennsylvania,
He shrugged his shoulders, he shook his head,
And he said (and this is exactly what he said)
“Boy that sure must’ve been something.
Just imagine thirty thousand pounds of bananas.
Yes, there were thirty thousand pounds of mashed bananas.
Of bananas. Just bananas. Thirty thousand pounds.
Of Bananas. not no driver now. Just bananas!”
From Greatest Stories Live: Ending number one
Yes, we have no bananas,
We have no bananas today
(Spoken: And if that wasn’t enough)
Yes, we have no bananas,
Bananas in Scranton, P A
From Greatest Stories Live: Ending #2:
A woman walks into her room where her child lies sleeping,
And when she sees his eyes are closed,
She sits there, silently weeping,
And though she lives in Scranton, Pennsylvania
She never ever eats … Bananas
Not one of thirty thousand pounds …. of bananas
Source: LyricFind
Songwriters: Harry F. Chapin









6 thoughts on “Harry Chapin – 30,000 Pounds of Bananas

  1. Ricky, I remember hearing this song when I started listening to FM radio, on WLAV out of Grand Rapids, MI. I’ve loved it since the first time I heard it. Although based on a tragedy, there is something inherently funny about 30000 pounds of bananas laying out and about to slip on. No idea it was more than a song, that it was based on a real incident, and oh the irony of it in retrospect, on Harry’s own death. I can see why his wife didn’t like the song, at least after his death.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. I think the first time I ever heard this song was on the Dr. Demento radio show. Last night when I seen your post I remembered this song. I remembered it was about a truck but it also has bus in the lyrics. I was almost sure no one else would post it for SLS. I figured it deserved to be posted for SLS. Thank you for jogging my memory with your post.


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