Wild Cherry frontman Rob Parissi wanted to write a hit song, and his plan was to copy from the best. He subscribed to Billboard magazine, which charts the hit songs. When it arrived each week, he would pick out a song or two to copy, making it just different enough to avoid getting sued. After some time doing this, he wrote the one that became his #1 hit. The song he copied: "Fire" by The Ohio Players (listen especially to the bassline and vocal stylings).
Wild Cherry was a hard rock band. They had a regular gig at the 2001 Club, and with disco big at the time, their sound didn't go over well. After one show, a black audience member shouted, "Play some funky music, white boy." Parissi decided they should, and wrote down the phrase on a bar order pad. They recorded it in Cleveland with a disco sound: drum and bass mixed way up front. The band was concerned about the lyrics, but Parissi insisted on keeping them.
This was going to be the B-side of Wild Cherry's cover of the Commodores' "I Feel Sanctified." When they heard it, the owners of their record label suggested that the B-side become the A-side. The song sold over two million copies, but was Wild Cherry's only hit.
Vanilla Ice released a cover of this song as the follow-up to his massive hit "Ice Ice Baby
." His version hit #4 in the US, but was his last hit. Ice did not credit Robert Parissi for writing this, so when Parissi sued Ice, he received a large settlement.
Rob Parissi got the idea for the group's name from a box of cough drops he saw when he was in the hospital.
Rob - Rothesay, NB, Canada
This song was a topic of conversation on the 2015 episode of The Big Bang Theory, "The Skywalker Incursion." When the song comes on the car radio, the scientist character Sheldon determines that the song is funky, and that it is requesting a white boy to play funky music. Seeing it as an example of Russell's Paradox, he asks, "Do you think this song is the music the white boy ultimately plays?"
For certain plot lines, only this song will do. TV series that have used it include Scandal and The Office; movies include Mystery Men (1999), Whatever It Takes (2000), Evolution (2001), Undercover Brother (2002), Malibu's Most Wanted (2003), Scooby-Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed (2004) and Obsessed (2009).