Thursday, August 2, 2012

Cab Calloway - Minnie The Moocher

Cab Calloway was an American original,  a versatile musician, singer and entertainer that saw his greatest popularity in the 1930's and 1940's.  He was born in Rochester, New York in 1907  and lived to be 86 years old. He continued to perform  up to the time of his death.  He was one of the main attractions at The Cotton Club, the premiere jazz club of the 1930's, and went on to perform in movies as well as having his voice used in cartoons done by Max Fleisher, an animator that had developed a way to capture the dance moves of Calloway and animate them on the screen.

Minnie The Moocher is a jazz song first recorded by Calloway in 1931. It was adapted from other jazz songs of the time, and sold over a million copies. The song is a call and response type common in jazz at the time. After each verse, Calloway would skat sing a 'call', and the audience (or band members) would respond by repeating it. Skat singing is s style of vocalization where the voice becomes more like a solo musical instrument as emphasis is put on the sound and tone of the voice rather than the words being sung. The 'words' of skat singing are usually nonsense words, and Calloway would make the call more complicated as the song progressed until the audience couldn't repeat it.

Minnie The Moocher's lyrics are the jive talk of the times, with references to cocaine and opium use as well as Minnie's profession of prostitution:

 Folks, now here's the story 'bout Minnie the Moocher,
 She was a red-hot hootchie-cootcher,
 She was the roughest, toughest frail,
 But Minnie had a heart as big as a whale.

  (call and response)

 Now, she messed around with a bloke named Smoky,
 She loved him though he was cokie,
 He took her down to Chinatown,
 He showed her how to kick the gong around.

  (call and response)

 Now, she had a dream about the king of Sweden,
 He gave her things that she was needin',
 He gave her a home built of gold and steel,
A diamond car with a platinum wheel

  (call and response)

 Now, he gave her his townhouse and his racing horses,
 Each meal she ate was a dozen courses;
 She had a million dollars worth of nickels and dimes,
 And she sat around and counted them all a billion times.
 Poor Min, poor Min, poor Min. 

A great example of the moves as well as the voice of Calloway in this video from the 1950's:

An example of Calloway's ability to skat sing:

And finally, a version of Minnie The Moocher done in the 1980's. He's still the got the voice and the moves, even at 81 years of age.:

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