Arkin, who had been taking acting lessons since age 10, became a scholarship student at various drama academies, including one run by the Stanislavsky student Benjamin Zemach, who taught Arkin a psychological approach to acting. Arkin attended Los Angeles City College from 1951 to 1953. He also attended Bennington College. With two friends, he formed the folk music group The Tarriers, in which Arkin sang and played guitar. The band members co-composed the group's 1956 hit "The Banana Boat Song", a reworking, with some new lyrics, of a traditional, Jamaican calypso folk song of the same name, combined with another titled "Hill and Gully Rider". It reached #4 on the Billboard magazine chart the same year as Harry Belafonte's better-known hit version. The group appeared in the 1957 Calypso-exploitation film Calypso Heat Wave, singing "Banana Boat Song" and "Choucoune".
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