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I try to find enjoyment in life's simple things: friends & family, gardening, nature, home projects, etc. The television and radio are generally silent appliances in my home. But sometimes we all need a little help outside of ourselves to lift our hearts with laughter or a song. In my house, that often means switching on "Golden Age" radio shows, classic television or film, or simply turning to a good old-fashioned book.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

"South America, Take it Away" - Bing Crosby and the Andrews Sisters

From the Billboard top 30 of 1946, this is one of my favorites for adding in a little dance while doing house or kitchen work--or maybe for a quick mental pick-me-up break at work:

Listen right now with this player, or click here to download the mp3 free from Archive.org.

Aren't those lyrics fun? No love stories here. Just clever twists and rhymes as the singers lament how the newly popular Latin dancing styles are causing such difficulty in their lives.

Bing Crosby and the Andrews Sisters Perform

"South America, Take It Away," written by Harold Rome, was first introduced in the post-World War II Broadway revue "Call Me Mister," which opened in the National Theater on April 18, 1946.1 It was the lament of a canteen hostess, performed by Betty Garrett and preserved for us in this photo by Life Magazine.2, 3 Unlike the Andrews Sisters, in the original lyrics, she declares:
"To put it plainly,
I'm tired of shakin'
my Pan American can."

I recall a "Jack Benny Show" radio episode in which they worked in Mary Livingstone humming or singing snatches of this. If I find it, I'll post the link.

Desi Arnaz, whose trademark "Babalu " is referenced in the popular Crosby and Andrews Sisters' recording, made his own musical comedy response, "I'll Take the Rhumba."5 Here he provides his own demonstrations of both rhumba and jive, in both song and dance, and bids the viewer to consider which one is really more harmful to the back:

In addition to referencing "South America, Take Me Away," Arnaz also seems to be parodying "Minnie the Moocher," "Open the Door, Richard," and the scat-singing of American performers popular at the time (possibly Danny Kaye in particular, or perhaps others?). Do you recognize any more? If so, please share below.

Acknowledgements, References, and Additional Links

1Stanley Green, Broadway Musicals, Show by Show,5th ed., Hal Leonard Corporation, Milwaukee, WI, 1996, p. 129.

2"'Call Me Mister,' Broadway's Biggest Revue Hit is Written and Performed by Ex-GI's," Life Magazine, May 27, 1946, p.131-137.

3My thanks go to Wordpress blogger Songbook1 for pointing out originating musical and the related Life Magazine photograph.

4This is the Army / Call Me Mister / Winged Victory (Original Cast Album), Decca Broadway

5Special thanks go to Nelson Guirado for bringing Desi Arnaz's response to light in his Cubanocast Blog, "The Swing-Rhumba war of 1945: Desi, Bing, Laverne, Patti, and Maxine," January 3, 2009. You can check out his blog for his (presumably) tongue-in-cheek commentary on this "war," as well as links to an album recording of Arnaz' "I'll Take the Rhumba."

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