?Sing, Sing, Sing? is one of the most joyous songs ever written. It?s now seen as a big band classic, thanks largely to the sterling work Benny Goodman did with the song?but we?ll get to him in a moment?
Louis Prima wrote the music and lyrics for ?Sing, Sing, Sing? all the way back in 1936. His name might not be instantly familiar, but I can absolutely guarantee you?ve heard Louis Prima?s voice singing one of the most-loved songs of all time?on probably dozens, if not hundreds, of occasions.
That?s because Louis Prima lent his voice to King Louie in the original Disney animation of ?Jungle Book?. In that role you?ll have heard Louis Prima singing ?I Wanna Be Like You?.
You probably heard that song many times as a kid and heard it many times since with your own children, and perhaps even grandchildren. One of the best-known songs from one of the most loved films of all time was brought to life by Louis Prima (and Phil Harris, who voiced Baloo the Bear).
A talented trumpeter, composer, arranger and bandleader, Louis Prima was much in-demand through the 1920s, 30s and 40s, acquiring the moniker ?The King Of Swing? along the way. He certainly help popularise the swing sound which throughout the latter years of the Great Depression and during World War Two gave ordinary people a brief pleasurable interlude in the midst of grinding poverty and the horrors of war.
However ?Sing, Sing, Sing? didn?t become the massive tune we know today until bandleader Benny Goodman got hold of it a year or so after Louis Prima?s original release.
I?ve linked to the original 1936 Louis Prima recording below, which even contains some lyrics, and is a fine record. But it?s Benny Goodman?s instrumental version most of us think of these days when ?Sing, Sing, Sing? is mentioned.
That?s because, if Louis Prima was the King of Swing, Benny Goodman was the Obi-wan Kenobi of swing?
Benny Goodman?s band was the hottest band there was in an era full of incredible musicians playing the theatres and dance halls across the land?Glenn Miller, Harry James, Count Basie, Duke Ellington, Tommy Dorsey and many others were as famous during the 1930 and 40s as the biggest stars you can think of today.
Although I like all those bandleaders, Benny Goodman?s band, for me, was the tightest group of musicians there was at the time?and possibly that there?s ever been.
Benny Goodman was a famously hard taskmaster who tolerated nobody delivering less than 110% at every performance. If he felt you weren?t pulling your weight, there was no sentiment?you were out.
But as a result of his approach, you had to be an immensely talented musician to make it into Benny Goodman?s band?and an immensely consistent musician to be allowed to stay there?
Nowhere in Benny Goodman?s body of work is that better demonstrated than on ?Sing, Sing, Sing?.
Louis Prima was a trumpeter, whereas Benny Goodman played the clarinet, so there is a slightly different feel to both versions. However if Louis Prima hadn?t been such a great trumpeter himself, I?m not sure he could have written such a perfect, hard-driving, all-action trumpet part for his song.
?Sing, Sing, Sing? is undoubtedly a treat for fans of crisp, sharp trumpetry but Louis Prima?s song isn?t all about the brass. It?s also got one of the classic drum performances on there too?an element which was seized on and brought even more to the fore by Benny Goodman.
In fact, in Benny Goodman?s version of ?Sing, Sing, Sing?, the very first sounds you hear are from all-time drum superstar Gene Krupa hitting the skins as only he knew how.
Some would say Gene Krupa was the man more than many other?apart, maybe, from Buddy Rich?who brought the drummer out of the shadows behind the drum kit at the back of the orchestra and gave them the chance to be the star of the show too.
We certainly get our money?s worth out of Gene Krupa in Benny Goodman?s version of ?Sing, Sing, Sing??even though, ironically, his version doesn?t have any singing on it?
You can find what many people consider the classic version of ?Sing, Sing, Sing? from Benny Goodman here?https://youtu.be/r2S1I_ien6A
However, round here we like the words too. So for that we need to go back to Louis Prima?
I?ve got to be honest, there are not the most complex and intellectually fulfilling lyrics ever written. But that?s not my criteria for success?what I like are lyrics that truly belong with a song and make it special, which is exactly what the lyrics for ?Sing, Sing, Sing? do.
In Louis Prima?s song, you?ll find some of the early indications that this is a man who, 40-odd years later, would voice an iconic song for a cartoon character in one of the most-loved films of all time?the scat singing suggests someone who?s caught up in the joyous emotions of the moment and can?t take the time to pause and think more rationally, so he just keeps on going with whatever comes to mind as long as it fits in with the hard-driving beat.
That was certainly true for Louis Prima?s performance as King Louie in ?Jungle Book? and it?s also true for ?Sing, Sing, Sing?, as you?ll quickly recognise?
Sing, sing, sing, everybody start to sing la-di-la ho-ho-hoNow you?re singing with a swingSing, sing, sing, everybody start to sing la-di-la ho-ho-hoNow you?re singing with a swing
But, as is often the case, it?s hard to convey just how good that rather banal-looking set of words on a page really is, and how well they fit in with the spirit of immense joy which fills every moment of ?Sing, Sing, Sing?.
Even though I normally prefer the original version of songs, ?Sing, Sing, Sing? is one of those rare occasions where I prefer a cover?and an instrumental cover at that!?to the original. For me, Benny Goodman?s version of ?Sing, Sing, Sing? is the classic version of the song.
But without Louis Prima, Benny Goodman would never have enjoyed the success he did. Louis Prima wrote a fantastic song, with words which did their job perfectly?without the melody which came along with those words, Benny Goodman would never have made what was, for him, a career-defining recording.
So in tribute to the original composer, lyricist and performer, Louis Prima, here he is performing ?Sing, Sing, Sing?, which you?ll definitely recognise as a precursor to King Louie singing ?I Wanna Be Like You? in ?Jungle Book?
The video is below but, if you prefer, you can enjoy the song on Spotify here? https://open.spotify.com/track/24kpRvSMsSoBwBlvsxrbfM
PS ? just before we get to the video, if you enjoyed this article, please give it a ?clap??or even more than one if you?re feeling kind. You can also follow me on Medium (here) or Twitter (here) to get new articles as soon as they?re published.