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Album: variousReleased: 1949
This is famous as the theme song of the Harlem Globetrotters basketball team, who officially adopted it in 1952. They use it for their "Magic Circles" when the players stand in a circle and pass around the ball, displaying their impressive techniques and dexterity.
This was written in the 1920s by Maceo Pinkard and Ken Casey. It was popularized by the big bandleader Ben Bernie in the 1920s, and he was given a co-writer credit for recording it.
The most famous version, with whistling and bone-cracking, was a 1949 instrumental recorded by Brother Bones & His Shadows. This is the version used by the Harlem Globetrotters.
The original version had lyrics that were about a black prostitute. Many people and groups have covered this with lyrics, including Bing Crosby, Louis Armstrong, Ella Fitzgerald, The Beatles, and The Grateful Dead, and the lyrics seem to vary by cover. The Beatles' version contains the line "In Liverpool she even dared to criticize the Beatles' hair with their whole fan club standing there." The Grateful Dead only performed their version live.
This song was a showstopper in the 1976 Broadway musical Bubbling Brown Sugar
, where it was performed by Vivian Reed (who earned a Tony nomination for the role; the production was also nominated for Best Musical). The show lasted just one year on Broadway, but continued on as a touring production. For three years, Bettye LaVette
played the lead role in this production.