I Wanna Be Like You – Louis Prima (with Phil Harris)
…I’ve reached the top and had to stop and that’s what’s bothering me…
The Jungle Book came out in 1967 when I was ten and we all went to see it in the cinema in Eastbourne. Maybe mum took us? Andrew was one year old so who knows. It burned its way into my young brain forever. The tiger, Shere Khan, the snake Kaa, the Beatlesque vultures. But this section mainly. King Louis was genius. To make the song a New Orleans jazz shuffle (another Louis – Armstrong – was the template) was particularly clever. To then ask Louis Prima to sing it was inspired. When the writers approached Prima he said: “You tryin’ to make a monkey outta me? OK I’m in”
And the animators became inspired in turn by the band in the studio and how they played it. Phil Harris added his vocal as Baloo which is also hilarious, joyous and completely swings…see the film below. Of course I had no idea who sang it when I was a child. Didn’t matter to me one jot. A singing monkey. Great. As one grows through life these things become intriguing and eventually important. Who was that monkey? I’d come across Louis Prima at Paulette & Beverley’s legendary parties at Club 61 in Clapham during the late 80s/90s where “I Ain’t Got Nobody” would be belted out at top volume around 4a.m. (by all the single ladies and all of the married ones too) after a particularly excellent & potent caiperinha mixture had done its work. Then later linked him to Rudyard Kipling and Disney. Funny old world. What a tune though.