The Chipmunk Song

Album: Very Best Of The Chipmunks (1958)
Charted: 1


  • This was written and produced by Ross Bagdasarian (a.k.a. David Seville). The inspiration came to him from his youngest son, Adam, who had a habit of asking in September if it was Christmas yet. He figured if his son was already asking about the holiday so early, other kids probably were too.
  • The song went through three versions before Bagdasarian's family gave it the OK. The first version was an instrumental, the third was titled "In A Village Park," and the third and winner was "The Chipmunk Song." Bagdasarian came up with the idea for a trio of singing chipmunks after seeing one of those creatures on the road, refusing to move for his car.
  • Within three weeks of being released the song had sold over 2.5 million copies, making it the fastest-selling record of 1958. It hit #1 on December 22, 1958, and stayed there for four weeks. This is the last Christmas song to hit #1 in the US. >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Jeff - Boston, MA, for above 3
  • The Chipmunks were called Alvin, Simon and Theodore. They were named after Liberty Records president Al Bennett, owner Si Warnoker and the engineer on duty when it was recorded, Ted Keep.
  • This was the first Chipmunks single, although David Seville had previously recorded two singles using his pitched-up voice technique. The first was "Witch Doctor," which went to #1 US in April 1958. On that song, the chirpy voice represented the witch doctor, not a rodent. When Seville expanded the act he came up with the Chipmunks concept, creating three distinct characters, each with their own voices. "The Chipmunk Song" was their first single, and it set the stage for Chipmunk domination, which would later include TV series and movies.
  • The Chipmunks were very popular for the next few years; "Alvin's Harmonica" went to #3 in 1959, and the rodents got their on cartoon series - The Alvin Show - which ran from 1961-1962. They had some success with a 1964 album of Beatles covers, but by the end of the decade, it seemed that fad had passed.

    Seville died of a heart attack in 1972, and in 1979, his son Ross Bagdasarian Jr. assumed control of The Chipmunks, doing the voices of David Seville, Alvin, and Simon, while Ross Jr's wife Janice Klarman did the voice for Theodore. In 1983, they got another TV series, Alvin and the Chipmunks, which ran until 1990. In the '00s, there was another Chipmunk resurgence, with a series of movies and some novelty cover songs that placed on the Hot 100 (their version of "Bad Day" made #67; "Funkytown" went to #86). In 2015 they got yet another TV series, this one called ALVINNN!!! and the Chipmunks.
  • Like many hit Christmas songs, this returned to the charts several times around the holiday season. Here are the chart placings on the Hot 100:

    1959, #41
    1960, #45
    1961, #39
    1962, #40

    A new version of the song reached #66 in 2007, thanks to the box office success of the film Alvin And The Chipmunks.
  • This won three Grammy Awards: Best Comedy Performance, Best Recording For Children, and Best Engineered Record - Non-Classical (this one went to engineer Ted Keep, the namesake for Theodore).
  • Random trivia: Ross Bagdasarian can be seen playing the piano as a struggling composer in the Alfred Hitchcock movie classic Rear Window starring Jimmy Stewart and Grace Kelly. >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Terry - Willmar, MN

Comments: 11

  • Barry from Sauquoit, NyDavid Seville rode the Chipmunk craze for a number of years; he charted in 1959 with "Alvin's Harmonica" & it peaked at #3, 1960 with "Alvin for President", in 1960 with "Alvin Orchestra" and in 1962 with "The Alvin Twist" {Also charted in 1961 & 1962 with a re-release of "Alvin's Harmonica"}
  • Barry from Sauquoit, NyAlso made the Top 100 in 1959, 1960, 1961, & 1962 during the Christmas season. In '59 peaked at #41, '60 is was #45, '61 was #39, and finally in '62 it reached #40...
  • Mike from Franklin County, PaThe Chipmunk voice techniques was done using a tape recorder Ross Bagdasarian ( David Seville)used. He wanted the chipmunks to sound like little people ; so he recorded his own voice on the tape , then played it back on fast - forward . This is the same technique he used for making the voice of the "Witch Doctor" on the song by the same name.
  • Reed from New Ulm, MnI still have this 45[rpm]in my record collection!
  • Greg from Alsip, IlHe also had to sing "Loo the loo" because when the "P" sound is slowed down it makes a rather loud thump.
  • Carl from Eugene, OrThe change in voice pitch with the Chipmunks is different from a song such as, for example, "They're Coming To Take Me Away, Ha Ha!"
    They're Coming To Take Me Away... is done using phase shifting. The Chipmunks is done by recording the music and then slowing the tape speed by 1/2, which lowers the music track by one octave. Bagdasarian would then record talking and songs (he did the voices and singing of all 3 Chipmunks) and when the music track was brought back up to speed you had Chipmunk voices and singing that was in key with the music! I believe he won a Grammy for this effect.

    The first time he used this effect was for a pre-Chipmunks song, "The Witch Doctor."
  • Jonnie King from St. Louis, MoAlthough it's been forgotten due to the passage of time, Ross Bagdasarian also wrote Rosemary Clooney's BIGGEST hit of all-time: "Come On-A My House". His co-writer was none other than his Cousin, William Saroyan, one of the most famous writers/playwrights of the 30's-50's time period.
    BTW: Bagdasarian took the professional name "David Seville" because he was stationed in Seville, Spain during World War II and really liked the area.
  • Patrick from Tallapoosa, GaRegained popularity in the mid-1990s when featured in "Look Who's Talking Now" in which it was played with John Travolta & Kirstie Alley lip-synching to the song, after Mikey discovered the mall Santa to be a fake.
  • Tiffany from Dover, FlAlso, this song was spoofed off in a Smokey Bear ad in which the same artist thanked the people who prevented wildfires. Cooool!
  • Tiffany from Dover, FlI heard it on the radio during the holidays and it was extremely droll!
  • Steve from San Jose, CaRoss Bagdasarian has a non-speaking part in the Hitchcock thriller "Rear Window". He is the piano player in the apartment across the way.
see more comments

Editor's Picks

dUg Pinnick of King's XSongwriter Interviews

dUg dIgs into his King's X metal classics and his many side projects, including the one with Jeff Ament of Pearl Jam.

Justin TimberlakeFact or Fiction

Was Justin the first to be Punk'd by Ashton Kutcher? Did Britney really blame him for her meltdown? Did his bandmates think he was gay?

Tom Johnston from The Doobie BrothersSongwriter Interviews

The Doobies guitarist and lead singer, Tom wrote the classics "Listen To The Music," "Long Train Runnin'" and "China Grove."

Album Cover InspirationsSong Writing

Some album art was at least "inspired" by others. A look at some very similar covers.

David Bowie Leads the Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Long-Haired MenSong Writing

Bowie's "activist" days of 1964 led to Ziggy Stardust.

Experience Nirvana with Sub Pop Founder Bruce PavittSong Writing

The man who ran Nirvana's first label gets beyond the sensationalism (drugs, Courtney) to discuss their musical and cultural triumphs in the years before Nevermind.