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Garden City Times: Editor’s Note, February 2014

May 24, 2014

By Kathleen Orth
Speakers fill up pauses with ahs, ums, and ehs. Put a melody to the meaningless words, and what do you have? Maybe a hit!
What is ‘a-whop-bop-a-lu-a-whop-bam-boom’? According to Tim de Lisle, writing in The Guardian (La La Land, 2005), it’s simply …”the single greatest piece of nonsense in rock…1” (And it’s the first line in “Tutti Frutti” by Little Richard.).
Many famous songs contain nonsense lyrics, and these nonsense lyrics may be the key to the song’s success. Some of the songs below come from Top Ten Songs with Nonsense Lyrics1 but there are many more songs with nonsense lyrics.
Nonsense lyrics (aka non-lexical vocables) are a key feature in songs from Disney movies: “Heigh-Ho’ (Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, 1937); ‘Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah’ (Song of the South, 1946); ‘Bibbidi-Bobbidi-Boo’ (Cinderella, 1950), and the much-loved ‘Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious’ and ‘Chim Chim Cher-ee’ (Mary Poppins, 1964).
Songwriters and singers from Cab Calloway (‘Minnie the Moocher’ 1931) to The Beatles (‘Ob La Di, Ob La Da’ 1968), and The Police ‘De Do Do Do, De Da Da Da’ (1980) used nonsense lyrics. When he was asked about ‘De Do Do Do,’ Sting said, “…I was trying to make an intellectual point about how the simple can be so powerful.2“
Do you have a favourite nonsense song? On my ‘Top 10’ list of nonsense songs, “Good Morning, Starshine” (1969) would be #1. Happy “Gliddy glub gloopy nibby nabby noopy / La la la – lo lo3” to all!

2 and 3. See
4. See Good Morning Starshine by Gerome Ragni, Galt McDermott, James Rado

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