Wooden Heart (Muss I Denn)

Album: Wooden Heart (1961)
Charted: 1

Songfacts®:

  • This is an English version of the German folk song "Muss I Denn." Elvis Presley sang it in the movie G.I. Blues, and his version became a #1 hit in the UK in March 1961. RCA Records had no intention of releasing it in the US, as they feared it would harm his image - in the movie, he sang it to a puppet and it is clearly a novelty, complete with poorly translated lyrics like "If you say goodbye then I know that I would cry, maybe I would die." Elvis was becoming more of a family entertainer and had a huge hit borrowing from an Italian song with "It's Now Or Never," but this one could have done serious damage to his rock cred.

    When it became clear that the Elvis version wasn't going to be released in America, the race was on to record it stateside, and Shelby Singleton, a producer at Mercury Records, got a young performer named Joe Dowell to sing a half-English, half-German version, which shot to #1 upon release. Dowell had one more Top 40 hit when the novelty song "Little Red Rented Rowboat" made #23 in America, but he got his own G.I. Blues when he was drafted into the Army.
  • When this hit #1 for Elvis in the UK, he became the first artist there with seven #1 hits.
  • The credits on this song read: Benjamin Weisman, Fred Wise, Kay Twomey and Bert Kaempfert. Kaempfert wrote the music for "Danke Schoen" and produced the first Beatles recordings, which were done when they came to Germany in the early '60s.
  • The legend of the recording sessions may have been exaggerated over the years, but this song was recorded very quickly, with Shelby Singleton giving Joe Dowell just a few hours to learn the bilingual lyrics. The song was a #1 country hit, and around the same time (some sources report it was the same day), Singleton also produced the Ray Stevens song "Ahab the Arab" and Leroy van Dyke's "Walk On By," both of which were also #1 country hits. Stevens played organ on Dowell's recording of "Wooden Heart."

    In 1969, Singleton bought Sun Records (where Elvis signed) from Sam Phillips, who founded the label.

Comments: 15

  • Barry from Sauquoit, NyOn this day in 1961 {March 23rd} "Wooden Heart" by Elvis Presley peaked at #1 {for 6 weeks} on United Kingdom's Official Top 100 Singles* chart...
    "Wooden Heart" was Elvis' twenty first #1 record on the UK Singles chart, the song was based on a German folk song and was featured in the Elvis movie 'G.I. Blues'...
    Six months later Joe Dowell's covered version of "Wooden Heart" peaked at #1 {for 1 week} on U.S. Billboard's Top 100 chart in late August...
    "Blue Moon" by the Marcels bumped Elvis' "Wooden Heart" out of the #1 spot in the UK...
    May both Elvis {1935 - 1977} and Joe Dowell {1940 – 2016} R.I.P.
    * And from the 'For What It's Worth' department, the remainder of the UK Singles' Top 10 on March 23rd, 1961:
    At #2. "Walk Right Back"/"Ebony Eyes" by the Everly Brothers
    #3. "Are You Sure" by the Allisons
    #4. "Theme For A Dream" by Cliff Richard
    #5. "My Kind of Girl" by Matt Monroe
    #6. "Will You Love Me Tomorrow?" by the Shirelles
    #7. "F.B.I." by the Shadows
    #8. "(Ghost) Riders In The Sky" by the Ramrods
    #9. "Theme from 'Exodus'" by Ferrante and Teicher
    #10. "Sailor" by Petula Clark
  • Barry from Sauquoit, NyOn this day in 1961 {March 25th} Elvis Presley's "Wooden Heart" peaked at #1* {for four weeks} on the Australian Kent Music Top 20 Singles chart...
    The remaining Top 10 records were:
    At #2. "One Last Kiss" by Crash Craddock
    #3. "Good Time Baby" by Bobby Rydell
    #4. "Rubber Ball" by Bobby Vee
    #5. "Calcutta" b/w "Last Date" by Lawrence Welk
    #6. "Will You Love Me Tomorrow" by the Shirelles
    #7. "Calendar Girl" by Neil Sedaka
    #8. "Wings Of A Dove" by Ferlin Husky
    #9. 'Never On Sunday" by Don Costa
    #10. "Wheels" by the String-A-Longs
    * It was Elvis himself who knocked his "Wooden Heart" out of the top spot when his "Surrender" moved into the #1 position for a three week stay.
  • Jennifur Sun from RamonaI don't have a wooden heart either, maybe that is why I like this song.
  • Don from Sevierville, TnThe Dutch language really has nothing to do with this song, it's strictly English and German. It's easy to get confused because the German word for German is "Deutsch" (pronounced doytch) and Dutch is very similar to German, but is a totally separate language. German is spoken in Germany, Austria, Switzerland and Liechtenstein, and Dutch is spoken in the Netherlands (aka Holland) and Belgium (in the latter, it's also called Flemish). I lived in Europe many years as my mother is German and my dad and I were in the export business. I lived in Germany, and later Denmark. Also, my parents knew Elvis during his Army years - my dad was in the Army with Elvis the whole 2 years, and he was the only one to stay with him from the beginning to the end, and my mom was Elvis's secretary while Elvis was in Germany (she was already an American citizen and already speaking English when Elvis and my dad met her, as her mother married an American soldier when my mom was about 13).
  • Barry from Sauquoit, NyPer: http://www.oldiesmusic.com/news.htm
    Joe Dowell, the Bloomington, Illinois* singer best-remembered for his #1 hit in 1961, "Wooden Heart," died Thursday (February 4th, 2016) after suffering a heart attack days earlier, he was 76...
    Born in Bloomington Indiana, he moved to the Illinois town of the same name as a child. He was discovered while performing as a student at the University of Illinois at Champaign and signed to Smash Records in Chicago, where his first session (held in Nashville with Ray Stevens as a session player) included the Elvis Presley tune, "Wooden Heart" from his movie, "G.I Blues" (which Elvis had released in Europe but not America). Despite being snubbed by mighty WLS in Chicago in favor of Gus Backus' version (Gus had sung with the Del-Vikings), the song topped the charts nationwide. "The Bridge Of Love" was less successful, topping out at #50 in 1961, though "Little Red Rented Rowboat" did better at #23 the next year. Denied the chance to record his own compositions, Joe left Smash for Monument Records, then started his own label, Journey-- eventually becoming a gospel singer...
    May he R.I.P.
    * This is correct; he was born in Bloomington, INDIANA, but later moved to Bloomington, ILLINOIS...
  • Fred from Michigantown, InMuss i denn is an old German song about a young man who has to leave home for 7 years to become a journeyman. He must find a master craftsman who will take him in and teach him his trade. The young man is sad because he must leave his girlfriend behind.
  • Guy from Reston, VaRespectfully, this song is not a Dutch folksong in any way, shape, or form. It is Schwaebian, which can be mistaken for Dutch due to the sound of the dialect. Schwaebian, or Schwaebisch, is spoken in the Wurtemburg area of Germany, and is probably one of the most obscure dialects I have personally come across; much more difficult to learn than Bavarian, for example. Nothing to speak of was ever written in the dialect until after WWII, with this song being one notable exception. Schwaebisch replaces the diminutive suffix "-chen" with "-ele," hence the words Schaetzele and Staedele, etc. The dialect is also noted for it's "Schimpfwoerter" or scolding words, which are fun and colorful. I just copied the German (Schwaebsisch) words and will post a translation soon. Rest assured there is no "wooden heart" in the lyrics, apologies to Elvis and Joe. The song is about a guy who has to leave town and wants his girl friend to remain true in his absence
  • Oxa from Los Angeles, CaOnline translators are pretty abysmal for German, especially when it's in the Schwäbisch dialect (which explains "i" and "Staedtele").

    Muss i' denn, muss i' denn
    zum Staedtele hinaus,
    Staedtele hinaus
    Und du mein Schatz, bleibst hier?

    Must I then, must I then
    leave the village,
    leave the village
    and you, my dear, remain here?

    Sei mir gut
    Sei mir gut
    Sei mir wie du wirklich sollst
    wie du wirklich sollst

    Be good to me
    Be good to me
    Treat me as you really should
    as you really should.
  • Al from Dallas, TxI am not fluent in German; but I beleive the lines Sei mir gut... translate to "Be good to me...", not "Is good to me...". I presume the "i'" is a shortening of "ich" which means "I". I did speak German as a young child; but have never heard the dialect that shortens "ich" or the diminutive ending "ele"; but that is probably my ignorance. That all makes the words make sense to me. I had never seen them written before and could by listening I could not make sense of them before.
  • Dinesh from Colombo, Sri Lanka (ceylon)From which site that I can download this nice Song?
  • Jerry from Edinburgh, United KingdomThat is a really terrible translation. Can he speak either of the two languages at all? The first line means roughly: 'Must I then (must I then) leave this (little) town' (Staedtele = diminutive of Stadt, in dialect) The next line is right, but 'while you my treasure' would be more poetic.
  • Mohammad from Bandarabbass, Israelhi,every1 at last the translation of german words are here:Muss i' denn, muss i' denn
    zum Staedtele hinaus,
    Staedtele hinaus
    Und du mein Schatz, bleibst hier?
    Muss i' denn, muss i' denn
    zum Staedtele hinaus,
    Staedtele hinaus
    Und du mein Schatz, bleibst hier?
    now translation:
    Must go of i' then, must go of i' then
    from the Staedtele,
    Staedtele out
    And you my treasure, stay here?
    Must go of i' then, must go of i' then
    from the Staedtele,
    Staedtele out
    And you my treasure, stay here?
    Sei mir gut
    Sei mir gut
    Sei mir wie du sollst
    wie du wirklich sollst
    translation:
    Is good to me
    Is good to me
    Is to me like you should go
    how you really should go
  • Ruby from Bangalore, Indiai had actually wanted to know the meaning of the german lyrics in the wooden heart song
  • Keith from Slc, UtActually, the German song dates back long before either Elvis' or Joe Dowell's recordings. The English words have nothing to do with the original German lyrics, which are about leaving home and lover behind. The title and sound were intended to suggest that the song was Dutch (making a false connection to the traditional Dutch wooden shoes), due to a certain amount of residual anti-German social sentiment, a decade and a half after Hitler. The only German line is the first line of the song, repeated, because the original second line sounded "too German" to American ears.

  • Charles from Alexandria, VaUpon hearing the Joe Dowell version, many people thought that it was Elvis Presley.
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