There are a select few songs that are instantly recognizable to all of humankind throughout the world. Beethoven’s 5th Symphony in C Minor, Mozart’s Requim in D Minor, Henry Manchini’s Baby Elephant Walk, Neil Diamond’s Sweet Caroline and, of course, The Muppets’ Mahna, Mahna.
All of these songs have stood the test of time and long been thought uncoverable by music scholars. Well, at least . . . until Cake came along to get their sticky fingers all over the last great American traditional song, Mahna, Mahna.
Okay. Let’s address the elephant in the room.
Mahna, Mahna wasn’t actually created by The Muppets. I think it would be hard for those little felt hands to do all that composing and songwriting. The Muppets are, however, responsible for it being embedded in pop culture over the past 40 years.
Piero Umilani composed the song Mah Nà Mah Nà for an Italian film in 1968 called Sweden: Heaven and Hell (Svezia, inferno e paradiso). The film was of the era of explotative documentaries filled with sexy times and other lewd acts happening in Sweden in the late Sixties. The song accompanied a scene in the film, set in a sauna, which gave its original title Viva la Sauna Svedese (Hooray for the Swedish Sauna). I’ll let you guess what happens in that scene, because I haven’t watched the film, but would for “research.”
Sorry. I just ruined the childhood innocence that you associated with that song. Oh God! I’ve become the Michael Bay of talking about covers.
Originally, Cake recorded the Mahna, Mahna for VH1 Save The Music Foundation’s For The Kids charity album in 2002. But it wasn’t until 2007 when the band released their scratch and sniff B-Sides and Rarities album that the public become aware of the unique cover. In fact the B-Sides and Rarities album features several covers of songs originally performed by Black Sabbath, Buck Owens, Frank Sinatra, George Jones, and Barry White.
Cake’s horn-driven version brings new pep to a song that’s already full of pep. If you’re a Cake fan, you’ll enjoy the fun that John McCrea and company have with the song, while remaining faithful to the lighthearted scatting that makes this song evergreen.
There have been several versions performed by The Muppets over the years. Some included big stars like Sandra Bullock and Kermit the Frog. It should also be noted that Animal is not the primary Muppet that performs the song. It’s actually a Muppet called Bip Bippadotta. If you want to watch the original 1969 version of this song click here. It’s certainly dated, but it’s still the same great song.