During filming, the dinner scene where Delia (Catherine O’Hara), Charles (Jeffrey Jones) and their artsy snobbish guests are attacked for their prawn cocktails needed something more to fit. According to Pitchfork, Jones recalled that it was actually O’Hara who suggested that a little calypso music would bring a little more life to the scene. Jones reportedly suggested records he remembered playing in his youth, such as Lord Invader’s “Yankee Dollar” or “Rum and Coca Cola,” as well as Belafonte’s “Day-O.” The song turned out to be perfect for the scene, and Jones recalled that it turned out to be incredibly affordable too. He recalled, “I think they cost like $300 to do it?”
Marjorie Lewis, an ambitious development executive for the Geffen Film Company at the time, recalled how hard it was to get a fair price when you were working for a Hollywood mogul. “Every time someone heard the words ‘David Geffen,’ the price would go up,” Lewis told The Ringer.
Thankfully, more expensive R&B classics like “When a Man Loves a Woman” were scrapped in favor of Belafonte’s discography, which quickly became one of the most defining parts of Burton’s “Beetlejuice.” It would bring “Day-O” to heavy rotation on top 40 radio stations for the first time in over 30 years. For a generation of goth kids who had The Cure’s 1987 album “Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me” on repeat, the fact that Belafonte’s song “Day-O” broke through and struck a nerve is something. as well as a small miracle. If “Beetlejuice 2” ever sees the light of day, hopefully his songs can find a new audience again.