Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Our Evolutionary Cousins

Charles Darwin was famous for letting us all know that we used to be monkeys. Fortunately, we have made great strides since then.

Willie Dixon: Signifying Monkey


Consider Willie Dixon’s tale of monkey behavior. The monkey is devious and manipulative, and has no conscience. Both the lion and the elephant are his unwitting tools.

Willie Dixon was the bass player in Muddy Waters’ greatest band. His playing can be heard on many of the classic Chicago blues songs of the 50s, and many of the best known songs from that scene were Dixon’s compositions.

Los Lobos: Wanna Be Just Like You (The Monkey Song)


And, as Los Lobos tells us here, even the more self-aware monkeys yearn to improve themselves by becoming human.

Los Lobos needs no introduction. This track comes from a collection of covers of Disney tunes, called Stay Awake. The original version is from The Jungle Book.

Toots and the Maytals: Monkey Man


Perhaps, some monkeys have even made the attempt. That would explain the strange creature that Toots and the Maytals encounter here.

Toots and the Maytals’ best known song, Pressure Drop, is a classic reggae tune. Monkey Man is considered a ska classic, and has been covered by The Specials and Reel Big Fish, among others.

Nil Lara: Money Makes the Monkey Dance


Of course, Nil Lara reminds us that the love of money can make a monkey out of any of us.

Nil Lara’s family are originally from Cuba, he was born in the United States, and Lara grew up in Venezuela. This background helps to explain why Lara sounds like nobody else.

Irene Reid: One Monkey Don‘t Stop No Show


And, as far as Irene Reid was concerned, any man who mistreated her was a monkey.

Irene Reid was a fine jazz singer, with great musical timing, but, outside of music, she never seemed to get anywhere at the right time. She joined Count Basie’s band in 1961. Later, she joined the Broadway cast of The Wiz in plenty of time to assure that she wasn’t on the cast album. But she never lacked talent. In the last few years of her life, Reid released six albums as a group leader. This song comes from one of those.

So maybe we haven’t evolved as far as we would like to believe.