Handy Man (song)

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"Handy Man"
Handy Man label - Jimmy Jones.jpg
Single by Jimmy Jones
B-side"The Search Is Over"
ReleasedDecember 1959
Recorded1959
GenreRock and roll[1]
Length1:58
LabelCub (US)
MGM (other)
Songwriter(s)Jimmy Jones, Otis Blackwell
Producer(s)Otis Blackwell
Jimmy Jones singles chronology
"Handy Man"
(1959)
"Good Timin'"
(1960)
"Handy Man"
Single by Del Shannon
from the album Handy Man
B-side"Give Her Lots of Lovin'"
Released1964 (1964)
Length2:11
LabelAmy
Songwriter(s)Jimmy Jones, Otis Blackwell
Del Shannon singles chronology
"Mary Jane"
(1964)
"Handy Man"
(1964)
"Do You Want to Dance"
(1964)
"Handy Man"
Handy Man JT Dutch single cover.jpg
Dutch cover
Single by James Taylor
from the album JT
B-side"Bartender's Blues"
ReleasedJune, 1977 (June, 1977)
GenreSoft rock
Length3:17
LabelColumbia
Songwriter(s)Jimmy Jones, Otis Blackwell
Producer(s)Peter Asher
James Taylor singles chronology
"Woman's Gotta Have It"
(1977)
"Handy Man"
(1977)
"Your Smiling Face"
(1977)

"Handy Man" is a song written by singer Jimmy Jones and songwriter Otis Blackwell. Recordings by Del Shannon and also The Sparks Of Rhythm list Charles Merenstein as a co-writer, as does BMI. The Sparks Of Rhythm version on the Apollo 541 single version released in 1959 credits Andrew Barksdale and Merenstein as writers omitting Jimmy Jones. The song is noted for Jones singing "Come-a, come-a come-a come-a, come come-a, yeah" lyrics, which are heard at the beginning as well as in the coda of the song, before the song's fade.

It was originally recorded by The Sparks Of Rhythm, a group Jones had been a member of when he wrote it, although he was not with them when they recorded it. That version was in a minor key, and had a completely different melody. When Jimmy Jones recorded it, the song was changed to a major key, with a completely different melody. In 1959, Jones recorded the song himself, in a version which had been reworked by Blackwell,[2] who also produced the session. In addition, Blackwell also provided the whistling, which is prominently heard throughout the whole song. "Handy Man" reached No. 3 on the R&B charts and No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1960 behind Theme from A Summer Place by Percy Faith, becoming a million seller.[3]

The song was a hit again in 1964, reaching No. 22 for Del Shannon and yet again in 1977 for James Taylor. Taylor's version peaked at #1 in September 1977 on the RPM Top Singles chart.[4]

Measured in terms of popularity on any chart, Taylor's version of the song was the most successful. It reached No. 2 on the Cash Box Top 100 chart and No. 4 on the Billboard Hot 100. It also hit No. 1 on the Adult Contemporary chart. Taylor's version also earned him his second Grammy Award for Best Male Pop Vocal Performance.[5] Taylor's version featured Leah Kunkel as backup singer, singing the "comma comma" sections in harmony, which is heard after the second verse as well as in the coda of the song.

AllMusic critic Jason Elias compares Jones' original with Taylor's version stating that "where Jones’s version was chipper and a little obnoxious," Taylor's version "is so laid back it’s almost somnolent."[5] Elias notes that Taylor's slowed down version has the benefit of allowing him to shade the words in new ways.[5] Elias also praises Taylor's guitar playing.[5] Billboard Magazine described Taylor's version as "fluidly soft and laid back throughout" with spice added by the background harmonies.[6]

James Taylor version personnel[edit]

Other versions[edit]

  • Culture Club were accused of plagiarizing their 1983 hit "Karma Chameleon" from "Handy Man", for its apparent lifting of the "Comma, Comma" section. Culture Club frontman Boy George has denied consciously plagiarizing the song: "I might have heard it once, but it certainly wasn't something I sat down and said, 'Yeah, I want to copy this.'"[7] (Coincidentally, Neil Sedaka's #1 1962 hit "Breaking Up Is Hard To Do" starts with, "Doo doo doo down, Dooby doo down down, Comma comma down, Dooby doo down down, Comma comma down, Dooby doo down down, Breaking up is hard to do.")

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Jahn, Mike (1973). Rock: from Elvis Presley to the Rolling Stones. Quadrangle. ISBN 9780812903140.
  2. ^ "The Otis Blackwell Interview". Archived from the original on July 17, 2012.
  3. ^ Whitburn, Joel (2004). Top R&B/Hip-Hop Singles: 1942-2004. Record Research. p. 307.
  4. ^ "Top RPM Singles: Issue 7740". RPM. 17 September 1977. Retrieved 21 August 2018.
  5. ^ a b c d Elias, J. "Handy Man". Allmusic. Retrieved 2014-04-01.
  6. ^ "Top Single Picks" (PDF). Billboard. June 18, 1977. p. 78. Retrieved 2020-07-12.
  7. ^ "100 Best Albums of the Eighties". Rolling Stone. November 16, 1989. Retrieved 4 November 2016.