Mahna Mahna

Album: The Muppet Show soundtrack (1976)
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Songfacts®:

  • Best known as a classic Muppets song, this was written by the Italian composer Piero Umiliani as "Mah Nà Mah Nà." Umiliani wrote it for a 1968 Swedish movie called Sweden: Heaven and Hell, which was a documentary about sexual habits of Scandinavians. When the song plays in the film, we see a group of beautiful women enter a sauna. Running 2:07, the song was released as a single and made #55 on the US Hot 100 in 1969.

    With an unforgettable tune more suited for puppets than Swedish models, Muppets creator Jim Henson took note and used the song in the 14th episode of Sesame Street, which aired November 27, 1969. In this version, Henson performed a raggedy puppet known as Bip Bippadotta, who sings it with two girl puppets. Three days later, the skit appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show with the girls replaced by the Snowths, who are the odd pink creatures with large snouts. The male puppet in this skit was more refined, and became known as "Mahna Mahna."

    In 1971, the skit was used on The Dick Cavett Show and also on variety shows hosted by Tom Jones and Goldie Hawn. When The Muppets TV show debuted in 1976, "Mahna Mahna" was the first skit, with Henson performing the lead character and Frank Oz playing the Snowths. The song became a Muppets favorite, and was later used in their MuppetVision 3D attraction at Disney's Hollywood Studios, and in 1996 it featured in a sketch on the prime time series Muppets Tonight, where Sandra Bullock played a psychiatrist treating Kermit the Frog - whenever either said the word "phenomenon," the Snowths would appear. The song was also the closing number for the 2011 movie The Muppets. At the end of the film a series of celebrities including Selena Gomez, Mickey Rooney, Alan Arkin, Jim Parsons, and Neil Patrick Harris are seen performing the song.
  • The vocals on the original version of the song were performed by an Italian musician named Alessandro Alessandrini.
  • In 1977, after the song was popularized on The Muppet Show, the Piero Umiliani version was released as a single in the UK, where it hit #8 in April.

Comments: 2

  • Ricky from Ohsweken, Ontario CanadaI recall a cover version of this tune on Captain Kangaroo involving a stack simple cartoon bird heads that would "grow" as they sang it.
  • Zabadak from London, EnglandAlessandro Alessandrini was the famous whistler in various Ennio Morricone scores, including the Clint Eastwood man-with-no-name trilogy.
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