Monday, July 12, 2010

Sing It Funny

Singer/songwriter Ray Stevens (nee Howard Ray Ragsdale, b. 1939) started writing, singing, and recording in the 1950's. He did serious work -- "Everything is Beautiful," in 1970, was a big hit and won him a Grammy, but he is mostly known for what are usually called "novelty songs."

First one of these I can recall came from the late 1950's, "Sergeant Preston of the Yukon," based on the radio, then television drama, about a mountie and his faithful dog, Yukon King -- "On King, on you big husky!"

There was "Ahab the Arab," "Harry the Hairy Ape," "Santa Claus is Watching You," Jeremiah Peabody's Polyunsaturated Quick-Dissovling, Fast-Acting, Pleasant-Tasting Green and Purple Pills." And "Guitarzan." "The Streak," based on the fad of running naked in public, hit #1 on the pop charts in the U.S. and U.K.

He was an A&R guy, country singer, TV star, and while most of his songs were apolitical, he likes Sara Palin -- he wrote and performed "Caribou Barbie," in which he takes potshots at the "liberal media."

I bring this up because I caught "Harry the Hairy Ape," on the radio recently, and had to laugh at the total silliness of it. The gist is, Harry escapes from local zoo and hides in the bushes at the park, where he jumps out and scares passersby. One of these is a near-sighted local DJ who thinks Harry is a rock musician (from his ape-grunts). Don't worry man, the DJ tells Harry, I'mon play your record. Scares Harry so bad he runs back to his cage.

And the lyric: Well, the DJ played Harry's record/
(What record?) Shut up!
It was a hit and he became a star ...

Got to love that total flouting of reality ...

Still at it in his seventies, and while his politics are a bit on the conservative side for me, you have to think he's had a successful career, much of which is based on silly songs. Worked for Roger Miller, and (see below) Weird Al Yankovic --

Worse ways to make a living ...

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