I enjoyed your column last week in which you discussed the history of the song “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.” I have a similar question about a song from another holiday favorite, “How the Grinch Stole Christmas.” Who wrote and recorded the song, “You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch”?
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With it’s wacky words and imagery, the lyrics could only have been written by the Grinch’s creator, Theodor “Dr. Seuss” Geisel. All of the show’s tunes were composed by Albert Hague, a composer of such Broadway musicals as “Plain and Fancy,” “Redhead,” “Café Crown” and “The Fig Leaves are Falling.” Some readers may remember Hague for his portrayal as the music teacher, Benjamin Shorofsky, in the hit ’80s TV series, “Fame.” He also had a bit part as a psychiatrist in the 1996 movie, “Space Jam,” starring Bugs Bunny and some little-known baller named Michael Jordan. The person who sings “You’re a Mean One,” however, is Thurl Ravenscroft. One of Ravenscroft’s other claims to fame is that he was also the long-time voice of the Kellogg’s Cereal spokesanimal, Tony the Tiger. Interestingly, Ravenscroft is tangentially connected to yet another favorite holiday movie, “The Sound of Music.” Although it appears that Christopher Plummer, who plays Captain Georg von Trapp, sings in the movie, the voice we hear actually belongs to Bill Lee. Lee and Ravenscroft were both members of the Mellomen, a quartet that formed in the early-50s that remained active into the ’70s. While they released many songs commercially, they found their greatest success singing in movies. The Mellomen provided the singing voices for many Disney movies, including the singing mice in “Cinderella,” the playing cards in “Alice in Wonderland,” the singing elephants in “The Jungle Book,” and the voices heard in the dog pound in “The Lady and the Tramp.” They also sang with Elvis Presley in “It Happened at the World’s Fair.” Individually, Lee is also known as the singing voice of Yogi Bear. When it was determined that Plummer’s voice was not a good match for Julie Andrew’s, Lee was brought in by Associate Producer Saul Chaplin to overdub his voice on Plummer’s songs. Released in early 1965, the soundtrack peaked at No. 1 on the album charts. As for the Grinch soundtrack, Ravenscroft was not given initial singing credit. When Geisel learned of the oversight, he personally apologized to Ravenscroft and then contacted critics to let them know.
I’m looking for the original reggae version of “Red Red Wine.” Can you tell me who recorded it before UB40?
Believe it or not, “Red Red Wine” was originally written and recorded by Neil Diamond in 1968. His version peaked at only No. 62 on the U.S. charts. The first reggae version was recorded by Tony Tribe in 1969. It has been recorded numerous times since, including a country version by Roy Drusky in 1970. The song was mostly forgotten until UB40 recorded their first versions in 1983 and then again in 1987. This later version reached No. 1 in the U.S.
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