Simon Smith And His Amazing Dancing Bear

Album: Sail Away (1972)

Songfacts®:

  • Randy Newman wrote this song in 1965. He describes it as the "first time he wasn't trying to be Carol King." Added Newman, "My first songs were bad rock 'n' roll, typical Shirelles stuff." Newman recorded the song for the first time for his 1972 album Sail Away. (Here's our Randy Newman interview.)
  • This song is purely fictional. There is no actual Simon Smith with a dancing bear.
  • Newman originally offered this song to Harpers Bizarre. He had briefly been a member when they were known as The Tikris.
  • Alan Price (a founding member of The Animals who went solo in 1965) recorded this song in 1967. It became a #4 hit in the UK. Though it went virtually unnoticed in the US, it was one of the first times Randy Newman achieved any international recognition.
  • In an interview with Dawn Eden, Alan Price said "I quite like childlike songs, which sometimes cross over. Think of Simon Smith And His Amazing Dancing Bear. A lot of children like it, but a lot of messed-up liberals like it, too, because they read all sorts of social whatchamacallit into it. I never even thought of it."
    (Quote taken from http://www.dawneden.com/price.html)
  • This song was featured on the very first Muppet Show. It was performed by Scooter and Fozzie the Bear.
  • Harry Nilsson covered this song in 1969.
  • Randy Newman was trying to pen a song for Frank Sinatra Jr. when he came up with this. He explained to The Big Issue how it provoked a change in his songwriting:

    "I wrote it in 1964 and I was trying to come up with rhymes with 'Suzie' and it was like 'Suzie, doozy.' It had a lyric like, with a girl's name in the title. I couldn't take it! I thought of 'coat to wear' and then 'bear' came into my mind and it set me off to the style that I still write in today. There are songs I could have written in 1965 or 2015. It's the same guy, clearly, for a long time."

Comments: 1

  • Willynilly from BrooklynMaybe Simon would be less concerned with getting enough to eat if he didn't have to also feed the bear. Perhaps training a bird to dance would have been a wiser choice.
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