“Mah Nà Mah Nà” is an unlikely children’s song. It was originally written by Italian composer Piero Umiliani for the 1968 film Sweden: Heaven and Hell. The London Institute of Contemporary Arts described the film as “an Italian shockumentary depicting the strange customs of the natives of Sweden in the ‘60s. It’s an archetypal mondo movie, with scenes of lesbian nightclubs, nasty bikers, teenage sex education, drugs, topless girl-bands and suicide.” The song appears during a scene where a bunch of young girls, wearing only towels, soak in a sauna.
The usual disclaimer: Our monthly “Best Cover Songs” aren’t ranked, and the “Honorable Mentions” aren’t necessarily worse than the others.
Update: Hear me discuss this list, along with our Best Pink Floyd Covers ranking, on SiriusXM Volume:
Angus and Julia Stone – Passionfruit (Drake cover)
Three prominent indie artists covered Drake’s “Passionfruit” this month: Franz Ferdinand, Cornelius, and, the best of the bunch, Angus and Julia Stone. Covering a rap song is easier, I suppose, when there’s no actual rapping. Few political or racial minefields in the lyrics for artists to navigate help too (for a counterexample: this month’s worst cover). For Triple J’s great series “Like a Version,” Angus and Julia Stone brought their beautiful harmonies to a smooth soul bed. It floats like Gram and Emmylou singing a Marvin Gaye song.
In Memoriam pays tribute to those who have left this world, and the songs they left us to remember them by.
“Jim Croce knew about the America he sang of; he was a sweet, peaceful person who had tasted of life, and having tasted, desired only to tell people through song about the people he knew and the feelings he had…. The world is full of people like Big Jim Walker and Leroy Brown, but maybe without the music and poetry of Jim Croce, it’ll be a little harder to find them.”
Those words come from a PBS broadcast of a concert Croce gave less than six weeks before he died in a plane crash at the age of 30. Were he still alive, he would be turning 73 today.
Welcome to Cover Me Q&A, where we take your questions about cover songs and answer them to the best of our ability.
Here at Cover Me Q&A, we’ll be taking questions about cover songs and giving as many different answers as we can. This will give us a chance to hold forth on covers we might not otherwise get to talk about, to give Cover Me readers a chance to learn more about individual staffers’ tastes and writing styles, and to provide an opportunity for some back-and-forth, as we’ll be taking requests (learn how to do so at feature’s end).
Today’s question: What’s your favorite Muppets cover song?
Five Good Covers presents five cross-genre reinterpretations of an oft-covered song.
“Pure Imagination” is a song that entire generations have grown up knowing. Written by Leslie Bricusse and Anthony Newley, the dreamy ode to the powers of creativity has fascinated viewers of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory for decades. Gene Wilder’s film performance is full of both whimsy and a strange intensity, while the music backing him alternates between almost Christmas-like strings and runs of notes that are almost unsettling in their similarity to a horror movie soundtrack. It’s as if the song is meant to celebrate the best of what the human mind can come up with while still hinting at darker corners.
It’s that original dichotomy that makes “Pure Imagination” such a perfect song for interpretation. It’s Willy Wonka’s invitation to come join him in a world that’s different from the humdrum reality that Charlie Bucket has grown up with. It’s also a brief look into the mind of character whose mind works differently than that of the rest of us. There are so many layers in the original that almost any direction can be taken with a cover version. Dozens of artists have taken a stab at it. Here are five great takes on this film classic.
The Electric Mayhem has been The Muppets house band since the early years of The Muppet Show. The band has always been led by vocalist/keyboardist Dr. Teeth (“golden teeth and golden tones”) supported by Janice on lead guitar, Floyd Pepper on bass, saxophonist Zoot, and, of course, Animal on drums. In the past, The Electric Mayhem has covered quite a few songs (their version of “Little Saint Nick” rivals the Beach Boys). Most recently they covered Kool & The Gang’s funk classic “Jungle Boogie” and now they take on Paul Simon’s 1973 hit, “Kodachrome” for their new ABC show.