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Banned Songs: Hey Mambo, Mambo Italiano


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OK, I understand, even if I don’t agree, that a song like Serge Gainsbourgh and Jane Birkin’s “Je T'aime Moi Non Plus" was banned, but why "Hey Mambo, Mambo Italiano"?

"Mambo Italiano" is a popular song written by Bob Merrill in 1954 for the American singer Rosemary Clooney. Merrill wrote it under a recording deadline, scribbling hastily on a paper napkin in an Italian restaurant in New York City, and then using the wall pay-phone to dictate the melody, rhythm and lyrics to the studio pianist, under the aegis of the conductor Mitch Miller, who produced the original record. Merrill's song is not really a “mambo”; it provides an obvious parody of genuine mambo music, cashing in on the 1954 worldwide mambo craze while at the same time allowing Miller to set up a brilliant vehicle for Clooney's vocal talents. It is also a late example of an American novelty song in a tradition started during World War II by the Italian-American jazz singer Louis Prima, in which nonsense lyrics with an Italian-American sound are used in such a way as to present a benignly stereotyped caricature of Italian-American people (who had been classed with "enemy alien" status and discouraged from speaking Italian) as likable, slightly brash, pleasure-loving folk. Although Clooney's own family background was Irish-American while Merrill's was Jewish, she could perform such "Italianized" material with an entirely convincing accent.


The song became a hit for Clooney, reaching number 10 in the Billboard Hot 100 and number one in the UK Singles Chart early in 1955. It was also successfully covered by the popular Italian-American star Dean Martin. In the 1955 Italian comedy film Scandal in Sorrento (Pane, amore e...), Sophia Loren dances voluptuously opposite Vittorio de Sica to an instrumental arrangement of the tune made by Merrill, in a simplified, local imitation of mambo dancing; she was also required to dance to the song in the 1960 Hollywood comedy “It Started in Naples”. The song itself became popular in Italy when Carla Boni scored a major hit with her version of 1956. More recent cover versions have been made by Shaft (2000), Dean Martin's daughter, Deana Martin (2006) and Lady Gaga (2011).

The nonsense lyrics were originally couched in English, mixed together with a comic jumble of Italian, Spanish, Neapolitan dialect and gibberish (invented) words:

A girl went back to Napoli
Because she missed the scenery
The native dances and the charming songs
But wait a minute, something's wrong
Hey, mambo! Mambo italiano!
Hey, mambo! Mambo italiano
Go, go, go you mixed up sicialiano
All you calabraise-a do the mambo like a crazy with a
Hey mambo, don't wanna tarantella
Hey mambo, no more a mozzarella
Hey mambo! Mambo italiano!
Try an enchilada with da fish a bac a lab and then a
Hey goombah, I love a how you dance a rhumbah
But take a some advice paisano
Learn how to mambo
If you gonna be a square
You ain't a gonna go nowhere
Hey mambo! mambo italiano!
Hey mambo! mambo italiano!
Go, go, Joe, shake like a Giovanno
Hello kess-a-deetch-a you getta happy in the feets a
When you mambo italiano
Shake-a Baby shake-a cause I love a when you take a me
Mama say "stop-a or I'm gonna go to papa"
And a hey ja drool you don't a have to go to school
Just make-a wid da beat bambino
It's a like a vino
Kid you good a lookin' but you don't a-know what's cookin' till you
Hey mambo, Mambo italiano
Hey mambo, Mambo italiano
Ho, ho, ho, you mixed up Siciliano
it's a so delish a ev'rybody come copisha
How to mambo italianoooooo!
'Ats nice!

Well, believe it or not, the song was banned by New York's WABC radio because of its "suggestive lyrics". What? Happens that the radio station didn't understand them and thought they might be suggestive. Clooney's label was forced to counter with statements from a professor of romantic languages and even a Catholic priest, both of whom confirmed that the lyrics were "in no way offensive or vulgar."

By the way, Rosemary Clooney was aunt of actor George Clooney.

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It's amazing what gets banned and what doesn't. "Cut the cake" by Average white band had the most suggestive lyrics that were never banned. I used to work at an Italian restaurant in Atlanta called "Paisano's" during the 90's. Real Italian-not Olive Garden. Once in a while, I will listen to Louis Prima.




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22 hours ago, shorty6100 said:

It's amazing what gets banned and what doesn't.

The civilized world's record for banning songs goes for the BBC 1.  The have been banning systematically any song with title o even a word with any sexual or violent implication, independently of the context and charting position in sales

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