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Song of the Day for March 3: "Minnie the Moocher" by Cab Calloway

Marty Lederhandler/ASSOCIATED PRESS
Singer and bandleader Cab Calloway is seen in New York, date unknown. (AP Photo/Marty Lederhandler)

Cab Calloway was the rapper of his time. He was one of the most popular bandleaders and singers of the 1930s and 40s, black or white.

Calloway was best known for scatting, a type of jazz singing where the singer improvises with vocal sounds instead of words.

Our Song of the Day “Minnie the Moocher” was Calloway’s most famous song. He wrote it with music publisher Irving Mills. And recorded it on March 3, 1931. It sold more than one million copies.

The song is remembered for his call and response “hi-de-hi-de-ho.” Calloway improvised it after forgetting the lyrics. In concerts, he started playing with the audience, repeating the scat, then asking the audience to repeat it back, making it more nonsensical every time.

“Minnie the Moocher” is filled with jive slang. “Hoochie coocher” is a bad-girl belly-dancer. Her boyfriend was a “kokie,” someone who used cocaine. He showed her “how to kick the gong,” meaning to share opium.

Though it was about drugs and sex, the song, was never censored because most white listeners didn’t understand the jive.

In the 1940s, Calloway published “The New Cab Calloway Hipster’s Dictionary: Language for Jive.”

Calloway was introduced to a new audience in the 1980s film “Blues Brothers” when he performed “Minnie the Moocher” doing his back-and-forth with the audience scatting “hi-de-hi-de-ho,” killing time waiting for the Blues Brothers to show up.

Minnie the Moocher was added to the Library of Congress National Recording Registry in 2018.