This was written by Anslem Douglas, a musician from Trinidad who wrote it two years before The Baha Men recorded it - his original version is called "Doggie." Various versions were hits in the Caribbean, but The Baha Men toned down the calypso rhythm to make it more appealing to American listeners.
We have yet to meet someone who can remember any words to this song other than the chorus, which is: "Who let the dogs out? Woof, woof, woof, woof, woof." The song does have verses and even a hint of meaning - the lyrics are about disrespectful men who hit on women at a party.
In 2015, when we asked Rik Carey of Baha Men
about this song's appeal, he gave this explanation: "People are just into their dogs."
So how does he feel about the song years later? "It's a blessing, so I wouldn't ever want to change that," Carey said. "It gave us all this experience, so I'm not going to fight it."
A key component of this song is the bellowing voice that asks the question, "Who let the dogs out!" Every group member auditioned for this line, which went to Marvin Prosper, who was a vocalist in the group.
Considering what a sensation this song was in America, it had a surprisingly low chart position, peaking at just #40. While the song seemed to be everywhere, its omnipresence was due more to cultural references than to record sales or airplay. Few radio stations put the song in rotation, and in this pre-download era, consumers had little interest in owning the single. To put it in perspective of other one-hit wonders of the era, Lou Bega's "Mambo No 5 (A Little Bit Of)
" made #3, and "Macarena
" spent a shocking 14 weeks at #1.
Knowing most radio stations would have no interest in this song, it was marketed through sports, with the single sent to various baseball, basketball, football, hockey and soccer teams in hopes that they would play it at games.
The radio promotion machine was built around calls and visits to program directors in an effort to win favor, and this same approach was made to promote this song, except they courted the musical directors of the arenas instead of the PDs. These personal appeals worked, and the song entered rotation at a slew of sporting events, often used after the home team made a big play.
Most of the music played during sporting events is during lulls in the action - after a foul ball in a baseball game or when a football team is in the huddle - which is only room for about 12 seconds of a song. Songs with quick, high energy, easily understood hooks work well, and "Who Let The Dogs Out" fit the bill for these jock jams.
The Baha Men recording of this song was the brainchild of their producer, Steve Greenberg, who heard a version of the song by Fat Jakk and his Pack of Pets in 1998. Greenberg hated the song but loved the hook and was convinced he could work it into a hit. He convinced the Baha Men to record it and let the charge to get the song distributed and heard.
Greenberg had some experience foisting catchy, unorthodox tunes on unsuspecting listeners: He was executive producer of the 1997 Hanson hit "MMMbop
The title became a popular catch phrase in America when it was used in the 2000 World Series between the Mets and Yankees. At one point, an exasperated reporter who was sick of hearing the same questions over and over asked Yankees manager Joe Torre if he knew who let the dogs out.
This caused a spat with the Seattle Mariners baseball team, which was the first pro franchise to put the song in rotation. Catcher Joe Oliver was using it as his theme music, but shortstop Alex Rodriguez wanted it for himself. Rodriguez got his way because he was the star. The next year, Rodriquez signed a record $252 million contract with the Texas Rangers.
Eric Heimbold, who also did "Jump, Jive an' Wail" for The Brian Setzer Orchestra, directed the video, which was shot in various locations around Miami.
This is very popular with kids. It won Favorite Song at the 2001 Nickelodeon Kids' Choice Awards, and the following year Baha Men won for Favorite Band.
Shortly before Baha Men recorded this song, their lead singer, Nehemiah Hield, left the group. Steve Greenberg and his team went to the Bahamas to hold tryouts, and found three young singers to add to the band. These guys provided a more video-friendly look for the group, and their youthful energy came in handy when they had to travel the world performing this song over and over.
This won the 2000 Grammy for Best Dance Recording.
This was used in the 2000 movie Rugrats In Paris - the deal was made before the song became a hit. Other films that have used the song include:
Rat Race (2001)
Bubble Boy (2001)
Men in Black II (2002)
The Hangover (2009)
Among the TV series to use the song:
South Park ("About Last Night..." - 2008)
Melissa & Joey ("Up Close & Personal" - 2010)
The Big Bang Theory ("The Engagement Reaction" - 2011)
Baha Men are one-hit wonders in America, but wildly popular in their home country of the Bahamas, where their upbeat tunes exhibit the friendly, relaxed nature of the islands. "Who Let The Dogs Out" has a Caribbean sound, but many of their other songs are distinctly Bahamian, with junkanoo rhythms formed by goat-skinned drums, whistles and horns. The group prides themselves on live performance, but had a hard time showing their skills in the "Dog" days.
helped produce this song. He is a prolific hitmaker who had worked with many artists, including Bon Jovi, Cher, Kelly Clarkson, Aerosmith, Alice Cooper and Joan Jett. His slick production helped make this accessible to a mainstream audience.
Rik Carey is the only member of the 9-piece Baha Men not to own a dog. He only owned cats.
Baha Men had one more hit on the Hot 100: "You All Dat" (featuring Imani Coppola) made #94 in 2001. The following year, they had some success collaborating with Aaron Carter on "Summertime," and also with the stadium-friendly "Move It Like This." Their 2004 album Holla! was their last until 2015, when they issued Ride With Me on Sony Records.
The Baha Men performed this live on ESPN's Sportscenter in 2000.
The group updated this song on their 2015 track "Off The Leash," which finds them getting wild at party.
The group appeared twice on The Simpsons, always parodying this song. In the 2002 episode "Large Marge," they sing it as "Who Let the Milk Out?"; and "Who Let Her Jugs Out?" In the 2005 episode "Thank God It's Doomsday," they do it as "Who Wants a Haircut?" The later was included on The Simpsons 2007 album Testify.