Let’s all Sing Like the Birdies Sing
Today’s musical treat is a stroll through the songs of the Tiki Room.
Oh, not THAT song – it’s one of the Sherman Brothers’ best – but did you know the origin of the OTHER songs within?
Here’s Jay Williams, warbling his 1934 hit “Let’s all Sing Like the Birdies Sing”:
Wilbur also mentions birdies singing in one of his other hits, “Be Like the Kettle and Sing.”
Barry McCanna wrote the only biography (more of a discography with details, really) about Wilbur on Memory Lane in the UK. Wilbur led an interesting life; he was born sometime before the turn of the 20th century to a musician father and wardrobe mistress mother in Britain’s oldest opera company. He was trained in voice and piano, and may have appeared with a young Charlie Chaplin on the vaudeville stage. He began accompanying silent films on piano, and was one of the key players in developing the first orchestras that did so. He began touring with a light orchestra, but was bitten by the Dixieland bug in 1919. What resulted from the influence of the two was one of the roots of popular music at the time Let’s all Sing… came out. He played The Savoy and Piccadilly hotels, toured Europe and played on a cruise to the USA, where he met musical luminaries of the time. He developed wanderlust, moving from continent to continent before ending his life in South Africa, but not before recording some of the most important, if not famous, music of the era. He always used studio musicians, who often worked under pseudonyms, so most of the people behind his songs will remain a mystery.
Another dish in the musical luau in the Tiki Room is “The Hawaiian War Chant (Tahuwahuwai)”. Tommy Noble is credited for composing the song, but he actually “borrowed” it from Prince William Pitt Leleiohoku’s song “Kauai I Huahua’i” (We Two in the Spray) and jazzed it up a bit.
Lyrics and a brief bio here. There are about a zillion versions of the sped-up, Americanized version online, but you’ll be hard-put to find a more authentic version online. Suffice it to say – Disney got it right with the pacing of the song. It’s a love song, not a war chant, possibly written by the prince about a woman he was having an affair with. He died at 22, so we’ll never know. It’s not overtly sexual, but does contain some sensual imagery. Also, watching people from the 30s and 40s mangle the Hawaiian is pretty funny.
I’d written a nice bit about Offenbach, but I cut it out because it was slowing down the pacing of the piece.
Tomorrow: You-hana? Get a look at how some of the great Tiki/Adventureland collectibles are made.