PBS and NPR for Southwest Florida
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00
0:00
Available On Air Stations

Song of the Day for March 18, "30,000 Pounds of Bananas" by Harry Chapin

HARRY CHAPIN
NANCY KAYE/ASSOCIATED PRESS
/
AP
This is a 1976 photo of singer-song writer Harry Chapin performing at Avery Fischer Hall in New York City. (AP Photo/Nancy Kaye)

Harry Chapin was leaving Scranton, Pennsylvania on a Greyhound bus when he heard about a recent deadly accident that happened nearby.

Chapin turned the story into a poem, then later put it to music. The song became a crowd favorite at his concerts. But it also brought him criticism.

The accident occurred on March 18, 1965. Eugene Sesky was hauling 30,000 pounds of bananas from Newark, New Jersey. He lost control of his truck as it barreled down a hill at 90 miles an hour. He was sideswiping cars and heading toward a busy Scranton intersection.

Apparently, the clutch had broken. Witnesses said he stood on the sideboard warning people to get out of the way. Some even think that he deliberately overturned the truck before it could hit a gas station. Instead, Sesky struck a house and died instantly. He was considered a hero.

Harry Chapin recorded the Song of the Day, “30,000 Pounds of Bananas,” for his 1974 album “Verities and Balderdash.” He wrote the song to protest the pressures faced by American workers. At concerts, though, it turned into a light-hearted song where the audience chose from four endings. Chapin was criticized for not taking the topic of the song more seriously.

In addition to 30,000 smashed bananas, the runaway truck damaged 90 cars and injured fifteen people. The accident resulted in Scranton changing a law where trucks weighing more than 20,000 pounds could no longer use the hilly route.

In an unfortunate coincidence, Chapin died in a traffic accident in 1981. He was hit by a tractor trailer on a New York highway. He was 39.

Hear more Songs of the Day.