1001 Songs Challenge,  1930s,  Music

1001 Songs Challenge #8: Minnie the Moocher (1931)

On 11 February 2019 I set myself the challenge of reading 1001 Songs You Must Hear Before You Die by Robert Dimery (ed.) and following the book’s advice to the letter. I’ve previously read 1001 Films… and started 1001 Albums… but felt 1001 Songs… would be a sensible place to start for what I have in mind here.

My challenge is to read about one song per day and listen to it (YouTube and Spotify, I need you tonight!) before sharing my own thoughts. Some songs I will love, others I’ll hate, and I’m sure there will be those that leave me perplexed but listen to them I shall.

I’ll also try, and most likely fail, to pinpoint the best song from the 1001 on offer but I’m nothing if not foolhardy. Instead of one song, I’m predicting I’ll have about 100 favourites by the end and may have to resort to a Top 10 so far to maintain any semblance of sanity.

So long as I post every day (including Christmas) then this challenge should come to an end on Wednesday 8 November 2021. Staying with the Barney Stinson theme I am hoping that the whole experience will prove to be… legendary!


Cab Calloway & His Orchestra – Minnie the Moocher (1931)

Minnie the Moocher

” Minnie the Moocher” is a jazz song first recorded in 1931 by Cab Calloway and His Orchestra, selling over a million copies. “Minnie the Moocher” is most famous for its nonsensical ad libbed (” scat”) lyrics (for example, “Hi De Hi De Hi De Ho”).

Lyrics (via Genius)
Learn more about this song (via Genius)


For our eighth song we leave the shores of Cuba and head back across the sea to New York where we delve back into the world of jazz. Cab Calloway is our host today along with His Orchestra and the song in question is Minnie the Moocher. Considered a classic of its time, Minnie the Moocher demands audience participation, which includes you dear reader so get those vocals ready, with Calloway’s use of scat lyrics that sound like absurd mumblings. 

From my research I found that the song contains drug references with its use of slang and that Minnie the Moocher seems to refer to the true story of an old homeless woman that sadly perished on the streets one bitter winter’s night. For such a sombre subject, the song does sound upbeat and, as already mentioned, Calloway expected the audience to repeat each combination of scat lyrics he threw in between the verses and as the song goes on they get progressively harder.  

I wasn’t new to Minnie the Moocher and anyone that has seen John Landis’ 1980 classic, The Blues Brothers will know this one as well. Calloway appears early in the film when Jake and Elwood visit the nuns and he joins them during their fundraising show at the conclusion where he sings, of course, Minnie the Moocher, to get an impatient audience on side. Having only sampled the 1980 rendition of the song, it was a privilege to go back and hear it in its original form almost fifty years prior to The Blues Brothers. Calloway had both the voice and the dance moves to bring this memorable jazz number to life. Just be careful when you have a go at those scat lyrics, they’re not for the faint-hearted.


Favourite song so far:

Cab Calloway & His Orchestra – Minnie the Moocher (1931)

My name is Dave and I live in Yorkshire in the north of England and have been here all my life. I hope you enjoy your visit to All is Ephemeral.

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