Playlist: Mambo-Italiano

Admit it: when you saw this song on the list, you rolled your eyes. You’ve heard the Rosemary Clooney version of this song, and you know it’s a ridiculous novelty song featuring the same harpsichord as the Addams Family TV show theme song. Right?

Well, yeah. That song is pretty awful. And this is kind of the same song. But man oh man, is this ever not the same song. Here is Annie Sellick’s version:

First, replace the ridiculous instrumentation of Rosemary’s version with a really tight rhythm section. Bass, drums, and piano simply nailing it. The piano solo in the middle of this tune is just awesome.

But keep the lyrics, which when you look at them, are actually brilliant. For example,

Hey Cumbah (?), I love-a how you dance the rumba
But take-a my advice pisano, learn how to mambo
‘Cause if you’re gonna be a square, you ain’t-a gonna go nowhere

This joke is just for the people who know how to dance a Rumba. If you ever took a ballroom dancing class and learned the “box step,” that’s a Rumba. So you are dancing in a little square, and you are therefore not going anywhere. Get it? Not bad for a song allegedly scribbled on a napkin just before a deadline. (It was written by the “How Much is that Doggy in the Window” guy.)

The singer, Annie Sellick, is a new favorite of mine. She made the best playlist three times. Her voice is just wonderful—rich, playful, strong. All the qualities you want in a jazz diva. Her other two songs on the playlist will get their own post later, when I explore the naughty bits of the list.

The lesson here, I think, is that you can’t judge a song by the version you know.

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2 thoughts on “Playlist: Mambo-Italiano

    • The Clooney version has this New Jersey / Sopranos cliche vibe to it. I’ve always found it odd that Italian Americans love that song, given how stereotyping it is. (An Irish woman doing a fake North Jersey accent? Really?) Somehow Annie managed to strip the offensive part out without changing the lyrics. I think that’s really cool.

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