Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Miracles – "Mickey's Monkey" (1963)

Monkey see, monkey do
C'mon, you can do the monkey, too

The Visual Thesaurus website has an article that discusses at some length the history of the expression, “Monkey see, monkey do.”  Click here to read it in its entirety.

Neal Whitman, the author of that piece, believes that it comes from an African folktale:

In a folktale from Mali, a hat salesman has his entire inventory of hats stolen by monkeys, who grab them while he naps under a tree, and then climb out of his reach.  Upon waking, he gestures and screams angrily at the monkeys, only to have them imitate his gesturing and screaming.  Finally, he throws his own hat to the ground in frustration.  The monkeys do the same, and happy ending ensures.

This story is retold in the 1999 book, The Hatseller and the Monkeys, by Baba Wague Diakite, who explains in an author's note that versions of this tale also exist in Egypt, Sudan, India, and England, and that ”the theme of a peddler having his wares ransacked by monkeys while taking a nap was a popular motif in European art during and after the Middle Ages." 

Whitman found a 1908 book that actually uses the phrase, “Monkey see, monkey do.”  He uncovered several older printed examples of “Monkey sees, monkey does” – oddly, all those examples appeared in newspaper advertisements for men’s shoe or clothing stores.

Here’s one example of a such an ad from an 1897 issue of a San Francisco newspaper:

Why “Monkey sees, monkey does” became “Monkey see, monkey do” is a mystery – as is the origin of “The Monkey,” a fad dance from 1963.

Don't know how to dance the monkey?  Just watch this video and you'll be monkeying around in no time:

“Mickey’s Monkey” was a top ten hit in 1963 for the Miracles (who later became Smokey Robinson and the Miracles).

The song was written by Motown’s most successful songwriting team: Brian Holland, Lamont Dozier, and Eddie Holland.  The background singers who sang on the record included Mary Wilson of the Supremes, Martha and the Vandellas, and members of the Temptations and the Marvelettes.

Here’s “Mickey’s Monkey”:

Click below to buy the song from Amazon:

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