Song of the Day Jan 29
January 29, 2024
This month I’m focusing on some great hits from the 60s.
Today our song is: Louie Louie
Wikipedia tells us this about the song:
"Louie Louie" is a rhythm and blues song written and composed by American musician Richard Berry in 1955, recorded in 1956, and released in 1957. It is best known for the 1963 hit version by the Kingsmen and has become a standard in pop and rock. The song is based on the tune "El Loco Cha Cha" popularized by bandleader René Touzet and is an example of Afro-Cuban influence on American popular music.
"Louie Louie" tells, in simple verse–chorus form, the first-person story of a Jamaican sailor returning to the island to see his lover.
The "extraordinary roller-coaster tale of obscurity, scandal, success and immortality" and "remarkable historical impact" of "Louie Louie" have been recognized by organizations and publications worldwide for its influence on the history of rock and roll. A partial list includes the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, the Grammy Hall of Fame, National Public Radio, VH1, Rolling Stone Magazine, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Recording Industry Association of America. Other major examples of the song's legacy include the celebration of International Louie Louie Day every year on April 11; the annual Louie Louie Parade in Philadelphia from 1985 to 1989; the LouieFest in Tacoma from 2003 to 2012; the ongoing annual Louie Louie Street Party in Peoria; and the unsuccessful attempt in 1985 to make it the state song of Washington.
Dave Marsh in his book Louie Louie: The History and Mythology of the World's Most Famous Rock 'n' Roll Song wrote, "It is the best of songs, it is the worst of songs", and also called it "cosmically crude". Rock critic Greil Marcus called it "a law of nature" and New York Times music critic Jon Pareles, writing in a 1997 obituary for Richard Berry, termed it "a cornerstone of rock". Music historian Peter Blecha noted, "Far from shuffling off to a quiet retirement, evidence indicates that 'Louie Louie' may actually prove to be immortal." Other writers described it as "musically simple, lyrically simple, and joyously infectious", "deliciously moronic", "a completely unforgettable earworm", "the essence of rock's primal energy", and "the immortal international hit ... that defines rock 'n' roll."
Others noted that it "served as a bridge to the R&B of the past and the rap scene of the future", that "it came to symbolize the garage rock genre, where the typical performance was often aggressive and usually amateurish", and that "all you need to make a great rock 'n' roll record are the chords to 'Louie Louie' and a bad attitude."
Music historian and filmmaker Eric Predoehl of The Louie Report described the song as,
Purity. It's just a very pure, honest rock 'n' roll song. It's a song of romantic ideals hidden amongst a three-chord melody. It's an idealistic song. It's a misunderstood song. It's a confusing and disorienting song. It's like a heartbeat.
Humorist Dave Barry (perhaps with some exaggeration) called it "one of the greatest songs in the history of the world". American Songwriter summarized, "It might be the best-known rock song of all time. It might be the most important rock song of all time."
The Kingsmen's recording was the subject of an FBI investigation about the supposed, but nonexistent, obscenity of the lyrics that ended without prosecution. The nearly unintelligible (and innocuous) lyrics were widely misinterpreted, and the song was banned by radio stations. Marsh wrote that the lyrics controversy "reflected the country's infantile sexuality" and "ensured the song's eternal perpetuation", while another writer termed it "the ultimate expression of youthful rebellion". Jacob McMurray in Taking Punk To The Masses noted, "All of this only fueled the popularity of the song ... imprinting this grunge ur-message onto successive generations of youth, ... all of whom amplified and rebroadcast its powerful sonic meme ...."