Wednesday, July 2, 2014

TMFW 43 - The 40s Cuban Song That Inspired a 90s German To Record a Worldwide #1

Perez Prado was a Cuban bandleader who had a successful career and was most active in the 1940s and 1950s.  Known as the "King of Mambo," he played spirited, (mostly) instrumental songs.
David Lubega was a German musician of Italian and Ugandan descent.  As a kid in the late 1980s, he formed a hip hop group, and released a record in 1990 as a rap artist.  But in his 20s while visiting Miami, Lubega discovered Latin music.  He zeroed in on a Prado song called "Mambo #5" (well, there goes the mystery) and built his own version around it. 
In 1999, Lubega - then rechristened as "Lou Bega" - released "Mambo No. 5 (A Little Bit Of..." The song heavily sampled Prado's tune - Prado is officially listed as a co-writer of Bega's version - but added all of the lyrics, including the famous "a little bit of..." chorus.  The song was an instant, and international, smash hit.  It went to #1 in the UK, Australia, Germany, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Spain, Sweden, and Switzerland.  About the only place it didn't hit #1 was the US, where it topped out at #3 and ended the year at #42 (!).   
So now you know that "Mambo No. 5" is an old cover song by a German guy.  And now it is stuck in your head, too.  My work is done here.
BONUS FACT:  As best I can tell, there were never Mambos # 1-4, or 6-7.  But Perez Prado did have a track called "Mambo #8."  One can imagine Lou Bega quietly waiting for his moment...
BONUS FACT 2:  Though Bega's hit never made #1 in the US, Prado had two different songs that did.  His band's cha-cha cover of "Cherry Pink (and Apple Blossom White)" hit #1 in 1955 and stayed there for 10 weeks.  It was Billboard's "Year-End #1" for the year 1955.  And his song "Patricia" made it to number 1 and stayed there briefly in 1958.
BONUS FACT 3:  "Cherry Pink (and Apple Blossom White)"'s place on the charts came just in front of a sea change in popular music.  The song that followed it at #1 was Bill Haley & His Comets' "(We're Gonna) Rock Around the Clock."  And the rest was history. 

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