Napoleon XIV

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Napoleon XIV
Samuels in 1966.
Background information
Birth nameJerrold Laurence Samuels
Also known asJerry Samuels
Born(1938-05-03)May 3, 1938
New York City, U.S.
DiedMarch 10, 2023(2023-03-10) (aged 84)
Phoenixville, Pennsylvania, U.S.
GenresComedy, novelty
Occupation(s)
  • Singer
  • songwriter
  • producer
  • agent
Instrument(s)Vocals
Years active1956–2021
LabelsWarner Bros., Needlejuice

Jerrold Laurence Samuels (May 3, 1938 – March 10, 2023) was an American singer, songwriter, record producer, and talent agent.[1] Under the pseudonym Napoleon XIV, he achieved one-hit wonder status with the #3 hit novelty song "They're Coming to Take Me Away, Ha-Haaa!" in 1966.[1] Samuels occasionally revisited the Napoleon XIV character to record other songs, usually comedy records with an insanity theme.

Under the name Scott David (his son's name), he cowrote "As If I Didn't Know" with Larry Kusik, a top-10 hit for Adam Wade in 1961. Samuels also wrote "The Shelter of Your Arms", a top-20 hit for Sammy Davis Jr. in 1964.

Biography[edit]

Childhood and early career[edit]

Jerrold Laurence Samuels was born in Manhattan and was raised in the Bronx.[2] He played the piano and wrote music throughout his childhood, and began his recording career in 1956 when he cut the single "Puppy Love"/"The Chosen Few" for the Vik Records subsidiary of RCA Victor Records.[2][3]

Samuels was an acclaimed songwriter, during the early 1960s. Under the name Scott David (his son's name), he cowrote "As If I Didn't Know" with Larry Kusik, a top-10 hit for Adam Wade in 1961. Samuels also wrote "The Shelter of Your Arms", a top-20 hit for Sammy Davis Jr. in 1964.

Napoleon XIV[edit]

In 1966, Samuels concocted "They're Coming to Take Me Away, Ha-Haaa!" while working at Associated Recording Studios in New York. The public found out his true identity when Cousin Brucie of WABC revealed his name. The record quickly climbed the charts, reaching the top ten nationally in just its third week on the Billboard Hot 100. It peaked at #3 and sold over one million copies, and was awarded a gold disc.[4] In the Cash Box Top 100 the record even climbed to No. 1 for one week in its second week on the charts.

The success of the single inspired a Warner Bros. album of the same name in 1966 (reissued by Rhino in 1985), most of which continued the mental illness theme, for example: "Bats in My Belfry" and "Split Level Head", the latter of which features different vocal parts in each stereo speaker.[1] A second single of two recordings from that album went relatively unnoticed. His manager was Leonard Stogel.

In the following years, Samuels would occasionally revisit the Napoleon XIV character to record other songs, usually comedy records with an insanity theme.

His songs were often played on Dr. Demento's radio show.

Later career[edit]

In his later years, Samuels worked as a singer and agent who booked various performers in the Delaware Valley.[2] In 1984, he founded the Jerry Samuels Agency, and later operated it with his second wife, Bobbie. They retired in 2021.[2]

In February 2022, Needlejuice Records teased the release of "an album that's 50 years old".[5] The following year, they revealed it to be Samuels' long-lost second studio album, For God's Sake, Stop The Feces!, scheduled for release on April 20.[6] The album was first created in 1968, but was rejected for its macabre material (the eighth track, "Rape", describes a rape in great detail, while the fourteenth, "The Note", describes a suicide) and subsequently shelved. Stop The Feces ultimately became a posthumous album, as Samuels died one month before its release.

Personal life[edit]

Samuels was married twice: first to Rosemary Djivre, divorcing in 1968, and then to Bobbie Simon from 1996 until his death. He was also in a relationship with Petra Vesters from 1973 to 1987. He had a son from his first marriage and another from his relationship with Vesters. Another son predeceased him.[2] Samuels was a longtime resident of the Oxford Circle neighborhood of Philadelphia, though he moved to an assisted living facility in King of Prussia, Pennsylvania, after retiring.[2][7]

Death[edit]

Samuels died from complications of Parkinson's disease dementia at a hospital in Phoenixville, Pennsylvania, on March 10, 2023, at the age of 84.[2][7]

Discography[edit]

Studio albums[edit]

  • They're Coming to Take Me Away, Ha-Haaa! (1966)
  • For God's Sake, Stop the Feces! (2023)

Compilation albums[edit]

  • The Second Coming (1996)

Singles[edit]

  • "They're Coming to Take Me Away, Ha-Haaa!" / "!aaaH-aH ,yawA eM ekaT oT gnimoC er'yehT" Warner Bros. (1966)
  • "I'm in Love with My Little Red Tricycle" / "Doin' The Napoleon" Warner Bros. (1966)
  • "They're Coming to Take Me Away, Ha-Haa!" / "!aaH-aH ,yawA eM ekaT ot gnimoC er'yehT" Warner Bros. (1973 reissue)
  • "They're Coming to Take Me Away, Ha-Haa!" (1966 recording) / "They're Coming to Get Me Again, Ha-Haaa!" (1990; recorded in 1988)
  • "They're Coming to Take Me Away, Ha-Haaa!" / "Photogenic, Schizophrenic You" Eric Records (1970s)

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c Colin Larkin, ed. (1997). The Virgin Encyclopedia of Popular Music (Concise ed.). Virgin Books. p. 889. ISBN 1-85227-745-9.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g Genzlinger, Neil (March 19, 2023). "Jerry Samuels, 84, Songwriter Who Recorded a Strange and Successful Hit". The New York Times. p. A26. Retrieved March 24, 2023.
  3. ^ "The Billboard - Reviews of New Pop Records". Billboard. March 31, 1956. p. 52. Retrieved August 19, 2015 – via Google Books.
  4. ^ Murrells, Joseph (1978). The Book of Golden Discs (2nd ed.). London: Barrie and Jenkins Ltd. pp. 208–209. ISBN 0-214-20512-6.
  5. ^ https://twitter.com/needlejuicerec/status/1494508018251223043
  6. ^ https://twitter.com/needlejuicerec/status/1627056159478910978
  7. ^ a b File, Nate (March 11, 2023). "Jerry Samuels, the Northeast Philly artist behind the 1966 hit novelty song 'They're Coming to Take Me Away, Ha-Haaa!,' has died at 84". The Philadelphia Inquirer. Retrieved March 25, 2023.

External links[edit]