A Symposium on Popular Songs

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A Symposium on Popular Songs
Directed by Bill Justice
Produced by Walt Disney
Written by Xavier Atencio
Starring Paul Frees
Gloria Wood
Billy Storm
Skip Farrell
Release dates
  • December 19, 1962 (1962-12-19)
Country United States
Language English

A Symposium on Popular Songs is a special cartoon featurette made by the Walt Disney Company in 1962. It features songs written by the Sherman Brothers with music arrangements by Tutti Camarata. The Shermans also co-wrote the screenplay but are not credited for this.[citation needed] Host Ludwig Von Drake invites his audience into his mansion where he tells all about popular music through the years, introducing several songs illustrated with stop-motion photography. The film was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film. It was telecast in December 1962 as an episode of The Wonderful World of Color, Disney's NBC Sunday evening anthology series. It was released on DVD in 2005 as part of the Walt Disney Treasures set Disney Rarities.

Songs[edit]

The Rutabaga Rag[edit]

"The Rutabaga Rag", performed by Paul Frees as Ludwig Von Drake, was not written as a parody of ragtime, but rather as an authentic ragtime song.[1] In the course of the film's narration, Von Drake claims to have invented ragtime music and, specifically, this song.

Charleston Charlie[edit]

"Charleston Charlie", performed by Gloria Wood, makes direct reference to the singing style exemplified by Helen Kane in her flapper era iconic song "He's So Unusual", which was co-written by the Sherman Brothers' tin pan alley songwriting father, Al Sherman in 1929 (see 1929 in music). The subject of both songs is a male college student whom the singer desires. "Charleston Charlie" begins with the Betty Boop-esque lyric "Boop boop be doop".

In the film, Ludwig Von Drake claims he wrote the song when traveling below the Mason–Dixon line. "Mr. Dixon" approached Drake and asked him to put "Dixie" on the map. For this reason, he wrote a song originally entitled, "Louisville Ludwig", but later changed the name to "Charleston Charlie" in order to protect the innocent, namely himself.

Although I Dropped $100,000[edit]

Also known as "Although I Dropped a Hundred Thousand in the Market, Baby (I Found a Million Dollars in Your Smile)", and performed by Frees, this song makes a subtle reference to the singing style exemplified by Ted Lewis in "Wear a Hat with a Silver Lining" which was co-written by the Sherman Brothers' father, Al Sherman. Throughout the spoken middle part of the song, reference is made to numerous Depression era songs including the iconic Al Sherman/Al Lewis classic "Now's the Time to Fall in Love", "Let a Smile Be Your Umbrella", and "Stormy Weather".[2]

According to film critic, Leonard Maltin, this song as well as "Charleston Charlie" are homages to Al Sherman and his songs.[1] In the context of the film, Ludwig Von Drake claims he wrote the song and it became all the rage at the beginning of the Great Depression.

I'm Blue for You, Boo-Boo-Boo-Boo-Boo[edit]

"I'm Blue for You, Boo-Boo-Boo-Boo-Boo", performed by Skip Farrell, is a tribute to Bing Crosby's signature crooning style.[1] Crooning elements, such as the repetition of "Boo boo boo boo boo", the whistling of the melody, and over-rhyming of the word "heart", are placed throughout the song.[2]

The Sherman Brothers' father, Al Sherman, wrote several songs which were sung by Bing Crosby in the 1930s and 1940s. In 1970, Robert & Richard Sherman had a chance, in their own right, to work with the legendary Crosby on the made-for-television musical production of Goldilocks.

The Boogie Woogie Bakery Man[edit]

"The Boogie Woogie Bakery Man", performed by Betty Allan, Diane Pendleton and Gloria Wood, had a structure and arrangement closely styled after the Andrews Sisters hit song, "Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy". The song makes direct and indirect references to the singing style exemplified by the Andrews Sisters, as well as numerous songs from the swing era which was the heyday of their career.[2] The very first line of the song references several swing era songs:

The song itself is about an "oriental" baker of fortune cookies. At the time the song was written, the use of the term "oriental" was quite common. However, in recent decades, the term has increasingly been seen to be offensive when used to describe an individual from the far east.

In 1974, twelve years after A Symposium on Popular Songs was first released, the Sherman Brothers worked with the Andrews Sisters on the Tony Award winning show, Over Here!, which was also an homage to the 1940s swing era music of the day.

Puppy Love Is Here to Stay[edit]

"Puppy Love Is Here to Stay", performed by Billy Storm, is the penultimate song in the film. With the exception of the "harder-edged" "Rock, Rumble and Roar", it is meant to represent relatively modern music. Although the Sherman Brothers made their name on writing songs much like this one, this song is different in that it partially parodies songs like it, exploring the perceived innocence of Eisenhower's 1950s America. There are references to songs such as "Blue Moon" by The Marcels and Annette Funicello's version of "Puppy Love".[2]

Rock, Rumble and Roar[edit]

"Rock, Rumble and Roar" is the final song from the film and sung by Paul Frees, Gloria Wood, Skip Farrell, Betty Allan, and Diane Pendleton. The song is meant to be the most modern of the songs from the film, and also revisits the six previous songs. This song is a homage to the popular, early rock and roll song, "Shake, Rattle and Roll".[2] It is the second song in the featurette to be sung by Ludwig Von Drake.

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c Disney Rarities - Audio Commentary for A Symposium on Popular Songs with Leonard Maltin and Richard M. Sherman, 2005
  2. ^ a b c d e Sherman, Robert B. Walt's Time: from before to beyond. Chapter 1; "Al's Time", Pages 17, 231. Santa Clarita: Camphor Tree Publishers, 1998

External links[edit]