Mr. Bojangles (song)

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For the 1936 song, see Bojangles of Harlem.
"Mr. Bojangles"
Single by The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band
from the album Uncle Charlie & His Dog Teddy
B-side "Uncle Charlie Interview #2/Spanish Fandango" (later replaced with "Mr. Bojangles" w/o prologue)
Released November 1970
Genre Country, folk
Length 3:35
Label Liberty
Writer(s) Jerry Jeff Walker
Producer(s) William McEuen
The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band singles chronology
"Buy Me for the Rain"
(1967)
"Mr. Bojangles"
(1970)
"House at Pooh Corner"
(1971)

"Mr. Bojangles" is a song originally written and recorded by US country music artist Jerry Jeff Walker for his 1968 album of the same title. Since then, it has been recorded by many other artists, including US country music band the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, whose version (recorded for the 1970 album Uncle Charlie & His Dog Teddy) was issued as a single and rose to number nine on the Billboard Hot 100 pop chart in 1971. Live versions of the song appeared on Walker's 1977 album, A Man Must Carry On and his 1980 album The Best of Jerry Jeff Walker.

The NGDB's single version begins with the Uncle Charlie interview (subtitled "Prologue: Uncle Charlie and his Dog Teddy") that also precedes the song on the Uncle Charlie album. This was originally backed with another interview with Uncle Charlie, also taken from the album. When "Mr. Bojangles" started climbing the charts, the B-side was re-pressed with the same song without the interview prologue.

Content[edit]

Walker has said he was inspired to write the song after an encounter with a street performer in a New Orleans jail and that the song does not refer to the famous stage and movie personality Bill "Bojangles" Robinson. Walker said while in jail for public intoxication in 1965, he met a homeless white man who called himself "Mr. Bojangles" to conceal his true identity from the police. He had been arrested as part of a police sweep of indigent people that was carried out following a high-profile murder. The two men and others in the cell chatted about all manner of things, but when Mr. Bojangles told a story about his dog, the mood in the room turned heavy. Someone else in the cell asked for something to lighten the mood, and Mr. Bojangles obliged with a tap dance.[1][2]

The song is notated in two time signatures, 3/4 and 6/8.[citation needed]

Recorded versions[edit]

Walker's song has been recorded by many popular artists, including Garth Brooks, Kristofer Åström, Chet Atkins, Hugues Aufray (French version, 1984), Harry Belafonte, Bermuda Triangle Band, David Bromberg, Dennis Brown, JJ Cale, David Campbell, Johnny Paycheck, Bobby Cole, Edwyn Collins, Jamie Cullum, King Curtis, Sammy Davis Jr., John Denver, Neil Diamond, Cornell Dupree, Bob Dylan, Arlo Guthrie, Tom T. Hall, John Holt, Whitney Houston, Queen Ifrica, Billy Joel, Dave Jarvis, Elton John, Frankie Laine, Lulu, Rod McKuen, Don McLean, MC Neat, Harry Nilsson, Esther Phillips, Ray Quinn, Mike Schank, Nina Simone, Frank Sinatra, Todd Snider, Cat Stevens, Jim Stafford, Radka Toneff, Jamie Walker, Robbie Williams, Buck Fisher, Bebe Neuwirth, Wendell Stuart, Dolly Parton and Helge Schneider.

A dance choreographed by Bob Fosse to the song appeared in the 1999 West End & Broadway theatre show Fosse, having previously been featured in Fosse's 1978 show Dancin'.

Furthermore, composer Philip Glass makes reference to "Mr. Bojangles" in his minimalist opera Einstein on the Beach.

Jim Carrey also performed this song in his earlier stand up routines and in his first movie Copper Mountain.

Sammy Davis, Jr performed the song on television, as did William Shatner.

In an episode of The Simpsons titled "Milhouse Doesn't Live Here Anymore," Homer sings a version of the song while panhandling.

Chart positions[edit]

Jerry Jeff Walker[edit]

Chart (1968) Peak
position
U.S. Billboard Hot 100 77

The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band[edit]

Chart (1971) Peak
position
Canada (RPM) 2
Netherlands (Dutch Top 40)[3] 28
U.S. Billboard Hot 100 9
Chart (1991) Peak
position
Canada Country Tracks (RPM)[4] 68

References[edit]

  1. ^ Walker, Jerry Jeff (2000). Gypsy Songman. Woodford Press. ISBN 978-0-942627-57-2. 
  2. ^ The Man Who Was Bojangles. BBC Radio 4. 11.30, 23rd August, 2008
  3. ^ "Nederlandse Top 40 – Nitty Gritty Dirt Band search results" (in Dutch) Dutch Top 40.
  4. ^ "RPM Country Tracks." RPM. Library and Archives Canada. August 10, 1991. Retrieved September 8, 2013.