April 25, 2010

Ray Stevens Whimsical Humor

In this short blog entry I'm taking a look at whimsical humor in Ray Stevens songs down through the years. In my definition, whimsical humor is light-hearted and filled with humorous twists of everyday situations.

Don't let the serious look of Ray fool you...the two songs on this single release are hilarious. "Hey There" is a song that dates back to the 1950's...it was a #1 pop hit for Rosemary Clooney in 1954 and a whole line of artists have recorded the song through the years. Ray's version of the song is certified lunacy. I have no doubt that Ray woke up one night or woke up one morning and had the idea of spoofing the sad "Hey There" but showcase the song with a completely different take. This was released as a single in 1980 but not here in America...it was available as a single in Canada and in the United Kingdom. You'll note that Ray's picture appears in an illustration of a radio. A radio figures prominently in Ray's version of the song. I don't want to give away too much for those who hadn't heard the song before. The song is featured on Ray's 1980 album, Shriner's Convention. The b-side is also a cute sing-a-long...but it has a double meaning. It's a clever song mixing the state of Florida with the sexual appetite of a single man during Spring Break. The title is eye-catching..."You're Never Goin' To Tampa With Me".

This obscure single came along in 2005 as one of the new songs on the Box Set release. You can find this song on 2008's Laughter is the Best Medicine as well. That particular CD was originally for sale at hospital gift shops but in January 2009 it became more widely distributed. "We're Havin' a Baby" is a light, comical look at your run-of-the-mill couple expecting a baby but the proud parents insist on having the baby the natural way. The couple decide to enroll in classes, of course, and they spread the news around to all of their friends. The mother goes along with the plan until reality sets in. Ray walks us through the entire ordeal as only he can...telling us all about the experience. Surprisingly, "We're Havin' a Baby" was never made into a music video but I think it would have made a funny one.

It doesn't get anymore whimsical than this song. Ray had a hit with this in 1963...reaching the Top-20 on both the pop and R&B charts. The song is dressed up as a light and bouncy sing-a-long but it isn't until the final verse that the pay-off line can be heard and the song becomes a commentary on AM pop radio of the time period. The song is about an ape named Harry, who's hairy, and he's escaped from the zoo. He encounters several people while on the loose and this allows topical references to be dropped in the song. The near-sighted DJ encounter sets up the jokes about then current rock music and AM radio. Ray re-recorded the song in 1969 and made it even more funnier. That recording is what usually appears on all of the various compilation CD's released on Ray Stevens. It was recorded for the Gitarzan album. The original 1963 hit recording on Mercury Records seldom gets a lot of distribution anymore.

1 comment:

  1. A great songwriter. Years ago I ended up with a copy of "losin' Streak" and began to appreciate his lyrics. Just this week I wanted to use some quotes from "What Do You Know" and wanted to get it right but could not find the lyrics. The particular line was "...fools behave like wise men and wise men act like fools in wild applause" but could not find them in full context. Hard to believe. Though I recall much of the song I would love to have it all.


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