The Candy Man

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"The Candy Man" (or alternatively, "The Candy Man Can") is a song that originally appeared in the 1971 film Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory.[1] It was written by Leslie Bricusse and Anthony Newley specifically for the film. Although the original 1964 book by Roald Dahl (Charlie and the Chocolate Factory) contains lyrics adapted for other songs in the film, the lyrics to "The Candy Man" do not appear in the book. The soundtrack version of the song was sung by Aubrey Woods, who played Bill the candy store owner in the film. Anthony Newley sings the song on his 1971 album Pure Imagination.

Attempt at replacing the Woods vocal[edit]

Lyricist Anthony Newley has said in interviews that upon hearing Woods's rendition for the first time, he was appalled at the lack of commerciality in the performance – worrying that it would possibly be depriving the duo of not only a hit record, but an Oscar nomination as well.

Newley's distaste for the performance became so intense that he was willing to forgo his own performance fee if he were to be allowed to re-arrange and re-record the song himself as well as pay for the session. When denied by producer David Wolper due to contractual stipulations by film composer Walter Scharf, Newley tried another tactic: lobbying to be allowed to at least re-dub his own vocal, possibly becoming the ghost voice for Woods; however, Woods's contract forbade that as well. Anthony Newley recorded his own version for MGM Records in 1971 before Sammy Davis Jr.'s hit.

Sammy Davis Jr. version[edit]

"The Candy Man"
Single by Sammy Davis Jr.
from the album Sammy Davis Jr. Now
B-side"I Want to Be Happy"
ReleasedApril 1972
RecordedAugust 19, 1971[2]
StudioLos Angeles, California
GenreVocal jazz, swing, traditional pop
Songwriter(s)Leslie Bricusse, Anthony Newley
Producer(s)Don Costa, Michael Viner, Mike Curb
Sammy Davis Jr. singles chronology
"I Have One but One Life to Live"
"The Candy Man"
"The People Tree"
Official audio
"The Candy Man" on YouTube

Sammy Davis Jr.'s version appears on the Sammy Davis Jr. Now album. It became his only number-one hit, spending three weeks at the top of the Billboard Hot 100 chart starting 10 June 1972, and two weeks at the top of the easy-listening chart.[3] Billboard ranked it as the No. 5 song for 1972. The track featured backing vocals by the Mike Curb Congregation, who earlier released an unsuccessful version of the song. It is recognized as one of Davis's signature songs, and "The Candy Man" came to be his moniker later in his career. The song was nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Pop Vocal Performance, Male at the 15th Annual Grammy Awards.

Despite the record's commercial success, Davis himself disliked it, telling his manager “It’s horrible. It’s a timmy-two-shoes, it’s white bread, cute-ums, there’s no romance. Blechhh!”[4] After hastily recording it in two takes at a studio session, he also reportedly said “This record is going straight into the toilet. Not just around the rim but into the bowl, and it may just pull my whole career down with it."[5]

In 2014, Sammy Davis Jr.'s lead vocals from the original 1972 recording were sampled to create a "virtual duet" with singer Barry Manilow, which appeared on Manilow's album My Dream Duets.

Chart history[edit]

Weekly charts[edit]

Chart (1972) Peak
Australia Kent Music Report 3
Canada RPM Top Singles[6] 2
Canada RPM Adult Contemporary[7] 3
US Billboard Hot 100[8] 1
US Billboard Easy Listening[3] 1
US Cash Box Top 100[9] 1

Year-end charts[edit]

Chart (1972) Rank
Australia 24
Canada 15
US Billboard Hot 100[10] 5
US Cash Box[11] 23


Region Certification Certified units/sales
United States (RIAA)[12] Gold 1,000,000^

^ Shipments figures based on certification alone.

Zedd version[edit]

Single by Zedd featuring Aloe Blacc
from the album Stay +
ReleasedFebruary 26, 2016 (2016-02-26)
GenreFuture bass[13][14]
Songwriter(s)Leslie Bricusse, Anthony Newley
Producer(s)Zedd, Grey, Joseph Trapanese
Zedd singles chronology
"True Colors"
Aloe Blacc singles chronology
"Carry You Home"

"Candyman" was covered by German-Russian producer Zedd featuring American singer Aloe Blacc and released as a single on February 26, 2016, to celebrate the 75th anniversary of M&M's.[15][13]


The song was recorded by Zedd with help from Grey and Joseph Trapanese.[14]

Critical reception[edit]

The track received generally positive reviews. Hugh McIntyre wrote that the song is catchy and fun.[15] Aloe Blacc's vocals were praised by Ryan Middleton, who thought that they fit well with Zedd's music.[13] The song was criticized by Diplo, saying that the song was a "rip-off" of Flume.[16]


Chart (2016) Peak
New Zealand Heatseekers (RMNZ)[17] 9
US Bubbling Under Hot 100 Singles (Billboard)[18] 18
US Hot Dance/Electronic Songs (Billboard)[19] 12

Year-end charts[edit]

Chart (2016) Position
US Hot Dance/Electronic Songs (Billboard)[20] 35


Region Certification Certified units/sales
United States (RIAA)[21] Gold 500,000

Sales+streaming figures based on certification alone.

Other uses[edit]

"The Candy Man" has been featured in a number of radio, films and TV shows after its introduction in Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory.

  • In the 1980s, the tune was adapted as a commercial jingle ("The Sunshine Baker Man", sung by Davis) for Sunshine Biscuits.
  • Sloppy Seconds recorded a cover of the song for their 1989 LP Destroyed.
  • In the animated television series The Simpsons episode "Trash of the Titans", Homer sings "The Garbage Man", a parody. As the Springfield Sanitation Commissioner, Homer sings about all the things the garbage men will do (take the trash out, "stomp it down for you", "shake the plastic bag and do the twisty thingy, too", etc.), assisted by a montage, guest starring U2.
  • In the animated television series Ren and Stimpy episode "Sammy and Me", Sammy Mantis sings "The Mantid Man", a parody about things mantises do ("say his prayers when he's eating lunch", "eat his siblings" etc.).
  • In the children's PC game Mercer Mayer's The Smelly Mystery: Starring Little Monster Private Eye, on the page taking place at the fish market, clicking one of the fish will make it spring to life and sing "The Smell Switcher Can", a parody about the game's antagonist making the fish at the market all smell like candy.
  • Jennifer Tilly's character, Monica Moran, sings the song in an audition to be a lounge singer in the film The Fabulous Baker Boys.
  • Chris Evans originally played the song on his popular drive time BBC Radio 2 show every Friday afternoon. When he replaced Terry Wogan on the breakfast show in January 2010, he continued to play the tune every Friday morning, immediately following the 8:00 am news until around 2014. The song was also used on a TV trailer, promoting his breakfast show.
  • Danny Baker used the song extensively as a theme during his breakfast show for BBC London 94.9. He would reward listeners who phoned into the show and greeted him as Candy Man. During his time on the show, he amassed a large number of existing versions of the song and commissioned guests such as Ray Gelato to produce new versions. He continued to use the song as a theme tune for his afternoon show on BBC London 94.9 until its cancellation.
  • Elaut used this song as the attract mode for its Candyman claw machines.
  • In an episode of the American TV series My Name Is Earl (season 1, episode 24), Randy Hickey finds a coin in a drain, which is accompanied by an instrumental rendition of "The Candy Man".
  • In Season 2, Episode 13 of the American TV series Malcolm in the Middle ("New Neighbours"), Commandant Spangler (Daniel von Bargen) makes Francis and the other cadets sing the song to impress his hero, Oliver North. It was featured again in Season 4, Episode 17 ("Clip Show 2").
  • On Krayzie Bone's 1999 album Thug Mentality 1999, he uses the melody and meter of "Candy Man" for the intro to the song "Dummy Man".
  • Comedian Tim Hawkins released a parody of the song, "The Government Can", in 2009.[22] The video for the song went viral and has garnered over 7.6 million hits on YouTube.[23]
  • M&M Mars used the song from time to time as a jingle for "The M&M's Man". EDM artist Zedd later released his single "Candyman", which samples the original song, to commemorate the 75th anniversary of M&M's candy.[24] An M&M's ad featuring the song shows Red and Yellow trying to remix the "M&M's Man" jingle with help from Zedd and Aloe Blacc.
  • The Kidsongs singers include this song in their 1986 video "What I Want to Be".
  • Rockapella sang their own version of the song on February 9, 2016, in honor of Valentine's Day.
  • In the DreamWorks Animation movie Madagascar, the song was used twice – the first was in normal speed when Alex the lion is tranquilized at Grand Central Station, then again at a faster speed when he is tranquilized again before being placed in a box.
  • In the Blue Sky Studios film Ice Age: Continental Drift, Manny sings this song when he realizes his crew are about to be attacked by Sirens.[25]
  • Launa Windows, a company based in Devon, England, used the song's melody to advertise their company on UK television in the early 2000s. Its lyrics include, "Who can fix your windows, make your home secure? The Launa Man can."[26]
  • The Broadway production of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory features Willy Wonka singing this song at the top of the show, just as he disguises himself as a candy store owner.
  • In 2014, the funk metal band Primus covered "The Candy Man" for their album Primus & the Chocolate Factory with the Fungi Ensemble. The album is a psychedelic re-imagining of the soundtrack for the 1971 film Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory.
  • Apple Inc. chose Aubrey Woods's recording of the song as the background music for its 2021 iPhone 12 "Mmmmm, purple" television commercial.
  • Sammy Davis Jr's recording is heard in the intro for the 2021 film, Candyman.


  1. ^ Deaton, Jim (March 2005). I Didn't Know That. ISBN 978-1591136996. Retrieved 26 July 2013.
  2. ^ Sammy Davis Jr.'s website
  3. ^ a b Whitburn, Joel (2002). Top Adult Contemporary: 1961–2001. Record Research. p. 72.
  4. ^ Breihan, Tom (28 February 2019). "The Number Ones: Sammy Davis Jr.'s "The Candy Man". Stereogum. Retrieved 20 October 2023.
  5. ^ Dellar, Fred (6 September 2022). "MOJO Time Machine: Sammy Davis Jr Strikes Candy Man Gold". MOJO. Retrieved 20 October 2023.
  6. ^ "Item Display – RPM – Library and Archives Canada". 17 July 2013. Retrieved 23 April 2017.
  7. ^ "Item Display – RPM – Library and Archives Canada". 17 July 2013. Retrieved 23 April 2017.
  8. ^ Joel Whitburn's Top Pop Singles 1955–1990ISBN 0-89820-089-X
  9. ^ "Cash Box Top 100 6/10/72". Archived from the original on 24 April 2017. Retrieved 6 November 2018.
  10. ^ "Top 100 Hits of 1972/Top 100 Songs of 1972". Archived from the original on 27 April 2017. Retrieved 23 April 2017.
  11. ^ "Cash Box YE Pop Singles - 1972". Archived from the original on 28 September 2018. Retrieved 6 November 2018.
  12. ^ "American single certifications – Sammy Davis, Jr. / Mike Curb Congregation – Candy Man". Recording Industry Association of America.
  13. ^ a b c Middleton, Ryan (25 February 2016). "Zedd, Aloe Blacc Re-Imagine M&M's Theme Song 'Candyman'". Music Times.
  14. ^ a b Reyes, Kim (25 February 2016). "Zedd and Aloe Blacc team up for 'Candyman'". Dancing Astronaut.
  15. ^ a b McIntyre, Hugh (10 March 2016). "Zedd and Aloe Blacc Talk Recreating a Classic Hit for M&M's 75th Birthday". Forbes.
  16. ^ Stutz, Colin (21 March 2016). "Diplo Calls Zedd a Flume Rip-Off Over M&Ms Song: 'Don't be Such a Pompous Cornball Loser'". Billboard.
  17. ^ "NZ Heatseeker Singles Chart". Recorded Music NZ. 28 March 2016. Retrieved 3 March 2019.
  18. ^ "Zedd Chart History (Bubbling Under Hot 100)". Billboard. Retrieved March 3, 2019.
  19. ^ "Zedd Chart History (Hot Dance/Electronic Songs)". Billboard. Retrieved March 3, 2019.
  20. ^ "Hot Dance/Electronic Songs – Year-End 2016". Billboard. Retrieved 24 November 2019.
  21. ^ "American single certifications – Zedd – Candyman". Recording Industry Association of America. Retrieved 15 August 2022.
  22. ^ "The Government Can Lyrics". Retrieved 26 July 2013.
  23. ^ "Tim Hawkins – The Government Can". Tim Hawkins. Retrieved 26 July 2013.
  24. ^ "Zedd and Aloe Blacc Put an Unexpected Spin on 'Candyman'". Complex. Retrieved 27 February 2016.
  25. ^ "Ice Age: Continental Drift-sirens funny part". YouTube. Archived from the original on 21 December 2021. Retrieved 4 January 2018.
  26. ^ "Launa Man 2001 Television Advert". Retrieved 20 May 2017 – via YouTube.