I Wish I Could Shimmy Like My Sister Kate

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"I Wish I Could Shimmy Like My Sister Kate"; often simply "Sister Kate", is an up-tempo jazz dance song, written by Clarence Williams and Armand Piron, and published in 1919. It is variously believed to be based on a bawdy tune by Louis Armstrong (about Kate Townsend, a murdered brothel madam) or transcribed from a version performed by Anna Jones and Fats Waller[citation needed].

The lyrics of the song are narrated first person by Kate's sister, who sings about Kate's impressive dancing skill and her wish to be able to emulate it. She laments that she's not quite "up to date", but believes that dancing like "Sister Kate" will rectify this, and she will be able to impress "all the boys in the neighborhood" like her sister.

Over the years this song has been performed and recorded by many artists, including Frances Faye and Rusty Warren, a 1959 version by Shel Silverstein, The Olympics in 1960 (released as "Shimmy Like Kate"), the Red Onion Band, and a beat version by The Remo Four in 1964. It was recorded live by The Beatles in 1962, and appears on Live! at the Star Club in Hamburg, Germany; 1962. The song arrived in the 1960s and 1970s folk scene thanks to Dave Van Ronk (recording it twice on In the Tradition and on Dave Van Ronk and the Ragtime Jug Stompers) and Jim Kweskin, who made it part of a "Sister Kate's Night Out" medley on his Relax Your Mind album[1] with Mel Lyman and Fritz Richmond. In 1967, the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band included it in on their eponymous The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band (album).

The song was featured in an episode of the Carol Burnett Show (Episode 7.6) in 1973.

David Bowie used to team this song with an updated version of the Flares 1960 doo-wop song "Foot Stompin'" during the (1974) Diamond Dogs tour, as heard on the compilation Rarest One Bowie. Guitarist Carlos Alomar blessed the update with a riff that became Bowie's hit "Fame", cowritten with John Lennon. Judith Durham recorded a version for her album, Judith Durham and The Hottest Band in Town (1974).

The song was also featured in an episode of All in the Family during the show's final (1978) season, in which Edith and Stephanie plan to sing the song for a talent show at Stephanie's school.

On their self-titled 2004 debut album, the Ditty Bops also covered the song as did The Livin' Blues, a 60s Dutch blues band.

A version of the song can be heard in the background of the season 4 finale of Boardwalk Empire[2][3]

A passage from the song is used in the poem Interview, written by Vijay Seshadri.


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