Baby Elephant Walk
"Baby Elephant Walk" is a song written in 1961 by Henry Mancini for the 1962 film, Hatari! In 1962, the song earned Mancini a Grammy Award for Best Instrumental Arrangement. The tune was written for an impromptu scene in Hatari! in which 'Dallas' (Elsa Martinelli) led three baby elephants to a waterhole to bathe. The catchy simplicity has made it one of Mancini's most popular works, appearing on many compilation albums. Although not used for the film, Hal David composed lyrics to Mancini's tune, which appear in the printed sheet music and later were recorded by Pat Boone, released by Dot Records in 1965. Mancini's version was not released as a single.
Brass instruments (including repeated blasts from the tuba) and woodwind elements are combined to convey a large and plodding elephant toddler that is filled with the exuberance of youth. Mancini used a calliope introduction to suggest the sound of a circus. A cheeky melody was then played over this on a clarinet, the song concluding with a solo clarinet playing the old four-note tune known as "Good Evening Friends".
The overall style is as that of boogie-woogie, as Mancini explained:
I looked at the scene several times [and] I thought, 'Yeah, they're walking eight to the bar', and that brought something to mind, an old Will Bradley boogie-woogie number called 'Down the Road a Piece' ... Those little elephants were definitely walking boogie-woogie, eight to the bar. I wrote 'Baby Elephant Walk' as a result.
The cheerful tone, like that of Mancini's "The Pink Panther Theme", presents a stark contrast to more melancholy Mancini standards such as "Moon River". Due to its "goofy" sound, it is often used in a humorous context. As the allmusic.com album review states, "if Hatari! is memorable for anything, it's for the incredibly goofy 'Baby Elephant Walk,' which has gone on to be musical shorthand for kookiness of any stripe. Get this tune in your head and it sticks."
The song was recorded by a number of performers in the 1960s, including the Fabulous Echoes on their 1963 Diamond Records album Those Fabulous Echoes, and Bill Haley & His Comets who recorded a version for Orfeon Records in 1964. Singles by Lawrence Welk and by the Miniature Men reached the Billboard Top 100.
In 1963, Brazilian pre-Jovem Guarda group Trio Esperança recorded a vocal version of this song, titled "O Passo do Elefantinho", with lyrics written by Ruth Blanco. This version was a great hit in national radio performances in Brazil.
The Nickelodeon animated series The Angry Beavers features a sped-up version of "Baby Elephant Walk" for the show's end credits. For a period of time, it was used as the theme song to The Ramblin' Rod Show, a children's morning cartoon show.
The song is featured in The Simpsons season 2 episode 5: "Dancin' Homer", where a drunk Homer dances to the song which causes the Springfield Isotopes baseball team to win. It was also used in the Season 17 episode "My Fair Laddy".
In 1994 Willi One Blood sampled the melody of "Baby Elephant Walk" for the chorus of the song "Whiney Whiney (What Really Drives Me Crazy)" as featured on the soundtrack for the film Dumb and Dumber.
- Henry Mancini interviewed on the Pop Chronicles (1969)
- "Past Winners Search". Grammy.com. The Recording Academy. Retrieved 19 June 2014.
- Mancini, Henry (2001), Did They Mention the Music?: The Autobiography of Henry Mancini, Cooper Square Press, p. 109, ISBN 978-0-8154-11758
- John Caps (2012), Henry Mancini: Reinventing Film Music, University of Illinois Press, p. 88, ISBN 978-0-2520-93845
- Baby Elephant Walk at AllMusic
- Whitburn, Joel (1993). Top Adult Contemporary: 1961–1993. Record Research. p. 254.
- Larry Flick, ed. (21 January 1995). "Single Reviews : New & Noteworthy". Google Books. Billboard. p. 59. Retrieved 15 July 2016.
- "Land Rover Evoque City Safari", adbreakanthems.com, (accessed June 2016)