Monkey Business!

Songs about Monkeys, Monkey Romance and the Jungle, page 2


This is a continuation of Our October, 2003 Issue of songs about monkeys and the jungle, if you missed page one, check the link at the end of this page or use this link.



Listen To That Jungle Band



Music by: James Kendis & Paley
Lyrics by: Al Bryan
Cover artist: unknown


A fabulous and whimsical cover adorns this terrific song from 1910. Though we are still in the land of monkey business, the authors of this song extended the idea to include a number of other jungle denizens including the Hippo, Hyena, Elephant, the Lions and Giraffe. However, when all is said and done, it is still the monkeys that rule. We hear from a Baboon, Chimpanzee, Orangutan and a generic "Mr. Monkey" who ends the second verse with a "high C."


A superbly upbeat song that has a wonderful chorus and melody, this song epitomizes the novelty song genre. The cute music combined with a set of nonsensical lyrics makes for a fun experience. I can imagine this song had a lot of play in the parlors of America as it would have been a quite fun family song that the kids would no doubt have loved to sing.


James Kendis (b. 1883, St. Paul, MN, d. 1946, Jamaica, NY) had some of his greatest success in his collaborations with James Brockman with whom he composed his greatest hit, I'm Forever Blowing Bubbles (MIDI). Kendis formed his own publishing company, Kendis Music Company. Some of his other hits not collaborated with Brockman include, If I Had My Way, Angel Eyes, and Come Out Of The Kitchen, Mary Ann. His partner in this work, Paley, eludes me at the moment.


Alfred Bryan (b. 1871, Ontario Canada - d. 1958, New Jersey). A prolific and prominent lyricist of early Tin Pan Alley, Bryan collaborated with some of the best composers including Percy Wenrich and Fred Fisher. Bryan's most lasting hit was the classic, Peg O' My Heart (MIDI) from 1913 with Fisher. Some of his other works include Rainbow (1908),and It's A Cute Little Way Of My Own sung in 1917 by the great Anna Held in the show Follow Me.


Listen to and see this exciting jungle song Printable score! (Scorch format)

Listen to MIDI version



That Monkey Tune


Music by: Irving Berlin
Lyrics by: Berlin
Cover artist: Frew

In 1911, America's soon to be composer laureate joined the bandwagon and gave us a typically fine song about monkey love. The cover no doubt caused many an "ahh" in the music stores and by the family when it was brought home. If a couple of Chimps hugging can be considered cute, then this great cover by Frew gives us the definitive monkey cute. This year was the same year that Berlin produced his watershed Alexander's Ragtime Band and reflects his immediate practice thereafter of non collaboration with other composers or lyricists.


Berlin offers us his very distinctive style with a jungle twist. As with many of the earlier songs we've looked at, Berlin adopts a mysterious tone with a bit of the jungle drums sound in F minor after the more bright introduction in F major. After the verse he returns to F major for the chorus. Lyrically, he gives us another monkey romance. It is an enjoyable tune with cute lyrics but nothing really unique or special other than this relationship does mature beyond the honeymoon stage to having a baby that keeps them up at night.



Irving Berlin. Born Isidore Baline in Temun, Russia, in 1888, Berlin moved to New York City with his family in 1893. He published his first work, Marie of Sunny Italy (Scorch format) in 1907 at age 19 and immediately had his first hit on his hands. It was at that time he changed his name to Irving Berlin. His total royalties for this first song amounted to 37 cents. In 1911 the publication of Alexander's Ragtime Band (MIDI) established his reputation as a songwriter. He formed his own music-publishing business in 1919, and in 1921 he became a partner in the construction of the Music Box Theater in New York, staging his own popular revues at the theater for several years. Berlin wrote about 1500 songs. One unique fact about Berlin is that he was not able to read or write music or play the piano except in one key (F sharp). He picked out melodies or dictated them and had assistants fill in the harmonies and accompaniment for him. Berlin never seemed to give credit for these very talented people. In his later years, he had a special device attached to his piano that allowed him to transpose any song into his "favorite" key. His initial start in the music industry was as a singer and then as a lyricist. It was only after great success in writing lyrics that Berlin turned to melodies.


Whether for Broadway musicals or films, for humorous songs or romantic ballads, his compositions are celebrated for their appealing melodies and memorable lyrics. Among the numerous musical comedies and revues for which Berlin wrote music and lyrics were Annie Get Your Gun (1946), and Mr. President (1962). His many popular songs include There's No Business Like Show Business, God Bless America, and White Christmas. In 1968 Berlin received a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award. On September 22nd 1989, at the age of 101, Berlin died in his sleep in New York City.


It is almost impossible to provide a meaningful biographical sketch of Berlin in only a few words, he is perhaps the most celebrated and successful composer of American song from the Tin Pan Alley era. Way back in November of 1998 we did a feature on Berlin's music, which we updated early in 2003. In addition, we have added a more extensive biography of Berlin for those who want to know more about him.

Hear and see this fabulous song (Scorch format)

listen to MIDI version




By The Light Of The Jungle Moon


Music by: J.C. Atkinson
Lyrics by: Powell I. Ford
Cover artist: Starmer

With a fabulous cover by Starmer and music that in my opinion is among the best of the lot in this issue, we approach the border between a novelty song and a more standard song of the period. Though we still are dealing with monkey romance, this song takes on a more serious tone and does not seem quite so much the novelty song as the others have been. Oddly, though the song is about a monkey romance, the cover is more focused on a human interaction. Is it possible that this song is also one where the authors started with one idea and altered it to capitalize on the monkey fad? I think it is highly possible and even probable.


The composer Atkinson uses a dotted rhythm in the beginning and a bit of a mysterious tone to again bring us into the mood of the dark and scarey jungle. At the chorus though, he uses a different sound that conveys a sweet love song (and it is) between two lovers. The tone of this song is quite like several of the "moonlight songs" we featured in our issue about moon songs in April of 2001.


J. C. Atkinson and his partner in this effort Powell I. Ford both seem to have gone with the winds of time. I'm at a loss to find any biographical information for either man, a surprise given the quality of this work.


Hear this great old song Printable score! (Scorch format)

listen to MIDI version



The Monkey Doodle Doo


Music by: Irving Berlin
Lyrics by: Berlin
Cover artist: E.H. Pfeiffer


Two years after his first entry into the world of monkey business, Irving Berlin returns to give us another of his takes on the subject. With a more novelty oriented cover by the great E.H. Pfeiffer, we also experience a more sophisticated song than before. However, the music reminds me a great deal of Alexander's Ragtime Band (Scorch format). Is it possible that Berlin was still seeking another mega hit and fell back on a meter and sound that is very similar to his 1911 blockbuster? I've noticed more than one other Berlin song from this period that musically or in title seems to recall the Alexander phenomenon, as though Berlin was still searching for a format that would assure continued success. Of course, as we well know, he found the format and more as he became America's premiere songwriter for over 80 years.


In this treatment of the monkey song, Berlin moves us (at last) away from the romance angle and instead treats us to a new dance, the Monkey Doodle Doo, a "peculiar little prance," which is of course, performed by monkeys.

Listen to and see this great song Printable score! (Scorch format)

Listen to MIDI version



The Monkey Jubilee


Music by: James White
Lyrics by: White
Cover artist: Unknown


By 1915, this particular monkey phenomenon is fading fast. There are fewer songs related to monkeys as other issues seem to overtake the American public's musical tastes. Yet, a few die hard and late comers still produce a few monkey songs. In this case, the composer has given us a real retro blast as he has returned to the earliest formulas as we saw in the 1907 and 1909 works.


The vamp into the verse gives us a look back at the earlier songs and sets the stage with the well worn "Indian" drum beat sound and harmony heard long before. It is almost as though White was living in some remote jungle himself and the fad just made its way to him some eight years late. White treats us to the same well worn story of the monkeys looking for romance. After the verse, it's easy to just think how ho-hum this is all getting. However, with the start of the chorus you should sit up and notice that something new and fun is going on with this song. The chorus' opening line "Honk-ey, honk-ey, honk-ey, tonk-ey, tonk-ey, tonk-ey," and the melody that accompanies it are a wonderful combination that sticks with you long after hearing it. I found that the chorus rescues this song from the ennui induced in the verse and makes it something quite special. It is a fitting swan song for this incarnation of monkey novelty songs.

It is a shame that the songwriter James White has been swallowed up by the ravages of time. This song indicates a great deal of talent yet I can find no other songs credited to him nor can I find any biographical information about him. As always, if anyone out there can provide information, please contact us.


Hear this great old song
(Scorch format)

Listen to MIDI version



In The Boughs Of The Banyan Tree


Music by: Walter Thompson
Lyrics by: C.P. McDonald
Cover artist: E.H. Pfeiffer

I'm out of monkey songs and I still have one more square to fill to give you our usual full measure of songs for this month's issue! You may be saying that is a merciful thing for as we've seen, except for a few of this month's songs, most have been very repetitive and too much of any thing (good, bad or ugly) can wear out any welcome. With that thought in mind, my final offering this month is simply a song set in the jungle. Though there are probably monkeys somewhere in sight of this Banyan tree, none appear in the song. Instead we have a song about a "Bolo man" and his "Bolo maid."


The story is similar to the monkey song, boy meets girl, they fall in love and her other lover, the King kills her new boyfriend. What! Holy mackerel, when I first heard this song I was just singing along and enjoying the nice music and love story. When I got to the part where the King kills the girl's boyfriend I was in shock! What makes it particularly debilitationg is that the prior lyrics and the lighthearted melody give absolutely no clue to the darker side of this song. It is one of the cruelest tricks I think a songwriter ever played on anyone. The songwriter and lyricist must have been in a dark mood or mad at someone when they wrote the song. Musically, it is quite gay (in the original sense) and carefree, completely out of character for the second verse surprise. Is it possible the authors were thinking of Romeo and Juliet? Regardless of the motivation, I'm using the song to end our issue and in a way "kill" this monkey business fad and return us to reality.


  This song may well have also killed the careers of Thompson and McDonald for once again, I've a pair who have faded into the sunset and cannot locate any biographical information about either man.


Enjoy this great novelty song (Scorch format)

listen to MIDI version



That completes our issue about monkey songs. Be sure to come back next month for a new and different feature article or just come back anytime to browse our extensive archive of issues and special articles.

See our resources page for a complete bibliography of other resources used to research this and other articles in our series. In text citations in this issue refer to works in the bibliography except where otherwise noted.

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