In 1967, the music my dad liked and the music my brother and I liked came together at the same place. Which is a little remarkable, considering Dad was 42, I was 10 and my brother John was 8.
That fall, Disney released “The Jungle Book” as an animated feature. My brother and I liked the cartoon, but we liked the music more. Because the film prominently featured veteran swingers and hipsters Louis Prima and Phil Harris, a couple of Dad’s favorites, he liked it, too.
Prima voices King Louie, an orangutan. Harris voices Baloo, a bear. The rest of the voice cast is terrific as well, with veteran movie bad guy George Sanders as Shere Khan, a Bengal tiger (the bad guy); Sebastian Cabot as Bagheera, a friendly panther; and Sterling Holloway as Kaa, a python.
A couple of years ago, I started looking for “The Jungle Book” soundtrack. I wanted another copy of “I Wan’na Be Like You (The Monkey Song),” which my brother and I had on a 45. We sang it over and over when we were kids: “Oh, ooh bee doo/I wanna be like you/I wanna walk like you/Talk like you, too …”
The search took longer than I thought it would. Then, earlier this year, it all started to fall into place. Now I find myself with two versions by Prima and Harris, another by Prima and a cover. I’m not sure either of the Prima/Harris versions are what we had on our 45, but they’re close enough.
Another of the versions is done by Prima, his wife, Gia Maione, and their swinging Vegas backing band — Sam Butera and the Witnesses.
Los Lobos does the cover, from “Stay Awake,” producer Hal Willner’s 1988 tribute album of classic Disney songs. It’s one of the most straightforward cuts on what gets to be a pretty far-out album. (Among the other “Stay Awake” performers: Tom Waits, David Johansen as Buster Poindexter, NRBQ, Betty Carter, the Replacements, Sinead O’Connor, Sun Ra, Harry Nilsson, James Taylor and Ringo Starr.)
So here it is, the music and lyrics by longtime Disney composers Richard M. Sherman and Robert B. Sherman.
Dig the scat singing by Prima and Harris at about the 3-minute mark of the first two cuts. Just before the big finish on both cuts, Harris gives the order: “Home, daddy!” Dig also Harris’ jive talk on the second cut: “I’m gone, man, solid gone!”
“I Wan’na Be Like You (The Monkey Song),” Louis Prima and Phil Harris, from “The Jungle Book” soundtrack, 1967, issued on CD, 1990. (However, the link is to a 2001 CD release.)
“I Wan’na Be Like You (The Monkey Song),” Louis Prima and Phil Harris, from “The Jungle Book” soundtrack, 1967, with dialogue featuring some of the other voice actors from the film. I don’t recall where I found this version, nor do I know its source.
“I Wan’na Be Like You (The Monkey Song),” Louis Prima, Gia Maione and Sam Butera and the Witnesses, from “The New Sounds of the Louis Prima Show,” 1969. Dig the Hammond organ on this one. (The album is out of print, but it’s available as a download at Amazon and eMusic.)
“I Wan’na Be Like You (The Monkey Song),” Los Lobos, from “Stay Awake: Various Interpretations of Music from Vintage Disney Films,” 1988. (Also found on Los Lobos’ “Just Another Band From East L.A.: A Collection,” 1993.) This swings, thanks to Steve Berlin’s baritone sax, David Hidalgo’s acoustic guitar and Alex Acuna’s percussion. (This is the CD rip; there’s a little skip on my 19-year-old vinyl.)