Wednesday, July 6, 2016

SHG: Georgia Gibbs: "Tweedle Dee"

Georgia Gibbs: “Tweedle Dee”
Entered the charts on: 1/29/1955
Peaked on: 5/12/1955
Weeks at #2: 1
Song at #1: “Sincerely” by the McGuire Sisters

So, let’s talk about “whitewashing.”

I know, we’ve already been here with Perry Como’s “rock & roll song.” But I didn’t expect to come back to this well again so soon. So, since this song strikes a personal chord with me, I thought I’d talk about my personal experience with this phenomenon.

You see, as a kid, I liked that early rock & roll stuff. You know, Chuck Berry, Fats Domino, that kind of thing. So, when my mother came home from her folks’ house with an armload of records she bought during her youth, I was thrilled to see “Tutti Frutti” among the discs. I was so excited to see the song title, I didn’t even take the time to closely examine the label before sticking it on the record player.

My reaction was something along the lines of: “Hey, this isn’t Little Richard! This sucks! Who is this loser and why is he ruining my day?”

Yeah, turns out Mom had the Pat Boone version and not the original. [makes retching noises]

“Tweedle Dee” was one of the first early rock & roll songs by a female singer I was familiar with. Speaking of the original by LaVern Baker here, of course. I can’t remember the record I heard it on, one of those “early records of the rock & roll era” records that advertised on TV, the title of which I have forgotten. Supposedly, Ms. Baker wasn’t too fond of rock & roll and only flirted with the genre to earn money. If she had her way, she’d stick to jazz. That said, she tackles the tune with aplomb, her raunchy contralto suiting the song very well.

In retrospect, it’s an extremely silly song, which appealed to me as a kid. It’s easy to see why this was popular among young people of the day.

I was quite disappointed in reading the Whitburn book for the first time, noticing that the original only rose as high as #14, trumped by a cover version by somebody named Georgia Gibbs, whose version rose all the way to #2.

Her Nibs, Miss Gibbs (as she was referred to at the time) seems to have been a victim of a kind of whitewashing herself. Her real name was Freda Lipschitz. I’m pretty sure some record company suit told her that was “too Jewish” and asked her to change it to something more palatable to Middle America.

Eh, this isn’t working for me. She’s trying for the brassy feel of the original, as much as she dares to (or her producers will allow) but it all just winds up sounding like a children’s song in her hands. She’s given no help from her lame male backing singers or the twinkly Glenn Osser orchestration. I was all ready to pile all the blame on this song’s failure on her, but I can’t really. She’s the only good thing about it. I kind of want to hear her other output now (but not her follow-up to this, her version of “The Wallflower” originally by Etta James and the Peaches. That went all the way to #1, and is a complete massacre of the original).

I’d like to conclude this review with this anecdote I found on a RateYourMusic review:

Georgia Gibbs scored the bigger hit with her version of "Tweedle Dee", for which Baker unsuccessfully attempted to sue her. When LaVern was flying to Australia, she took out flight insurance at the airport and sent it to Gibbs with a note: "You need this more than I do because if anything happens to me, you're out of business."

And you young kids thought Nicki Minaj invented this kind of thing?

Rating: 2


  1. Listening now to the Baker version -- holy CARP is that a world of difference! Still a silly song, but everybody involved is actually a PRO.

    1. It got me on a brief listening binge of some of Baker’s other hits. “I Cried a Tear” is just gorgeous!