Cool Jerk

Album: Dance The Cool Jerk With The Capitols (1966)
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Songfacts®:

  • The Jerk was a big dance craze in 1964 and 1965, with a number of songs dedicated to it, most famously "The Jerk" by The Larks, which reached #7 US. Other "Jerk" songs of the time include:

    "The Big Jerk - Pt. I" by Clyde & The Blue Jays
    "Can You Jerk Like Me?" by The Contours
    "Come On Do The Jerk" by The Miracles
    "Jerk And Twine" by Jackie Ross
    "Jerk It" by The Gypsies

    The dance is pretty basic - it's mostly just jerking your arms up in time to the music. It was big in Detroit, where a lewd variation called the "Pimp Jerk" developed. This inspired Donald Storball, guitarist for The Capitols, to write another song on the theme as the craze was dying down. In "Cool Jerk," lead singer Samuel George struts his stuff, explaining that he's the king of this new dance - a sanitized version of the "Pimp Jerk."

    The song was a surprise hit, reaching #7 to tie The Larks for the biggest jerk song of the era. Another jerk song didn't appear until 1990, when The Time released "Jerk Out."
  • The Capitols had been around since 1962. When Storball wrote "Cool Jerk," their manager, Ollie McLaughlin, arranged for them to record it at Golden World Studios in Detroit. Musicians on the session included member of Motown's famous Funk Brothers house band - they sometimes moonlighted at other studios for extra cash. Most credible accounts claim bass player Bob Babbitt and keyboard man Johnny Griffith were part of it. When "Cool Jerk" became a hit, Motown bought out Golden World Studios, turning into Motown Studio B.

    As for The Capitols, they couldn't muster another hit and broke up a few years later. Their one hit endured though, as "Cool Jerk" remained a favorite on oldies radio long after it was released.
  • This song has been covered a number of times, most famously by The Go-Go's on their 1982 album Vacation. Todd Rundgren often included it in a medley at concerts, and in 2002, Bootsy Collins teamed up with members of the Funk Brothers to cover the song for the Funk Brothers documentary Standing in the Shadows of Motown.
  • This was used in the 1992 movie Home Alone 2: Lost in New York in a scene where Uncle Frank is singing it in the shower. Other movies to use the song include:

    More American Graffiti (1979)
    Night and the City (1992)
    Donnie Brasco (1997)
    Yes Man (2008)
    Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted (2012)

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