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This is a very silly song! Most English speakers don't appreciate how silly it is. Read on, to push beyond the literal translation. You will smirk deeply when you next hear "La Bamba".

The literal translation would be something like this:

To dance the bamba
you need a little bit of soul
a little bit of cleverness- and another thing, you have to get going.
Yeah, get up, get going, shake it... (loose translation of "arriba")
I'll be yours, I'll be for you, I'll be for you!

I'm not just a sailor, I'm not a sailor...
I'm the captain!

"gracia" is literally grace or gracefulness, but also, like, being witty or clever.
"bambolear" is dancing or drunken staggering.
A bambolla is a boastful vain person...
Bambarria is an idiot...
so, "la bamba" is sort of a pun on all of this... like "the dance of boasting drunken idiots"

So a really loose translation would be like:

To dance like a drunken idiot
You've got to be smooth, with attitude!
And you've got to be with it!
Come on, get up and shake it!
I'm yours, baby, I'm yours!
I'm not just anybody, I'm hot shit, I'm the best!


There is another verse to the song:
Para ser tu cuñado,
para ser tu cuñado se necesita
que me des a tu hermana
que me des a tu hermana
la más bonita

This translates as:
For me to be your brother-in-law,
you have to give me your sister,
the prettiest one!

This is a joking insult -- if you slap your friend on the back and call him "brother-in-law" you are implying that you are sleeping with his sister.

The trombonist from the Max Weinberg 7 on Conan. His real name is Richie Rosenberg. He has a cool moustache, and always wears a panama hat. He also does the falsetto voice for the In the Year 2000... bit.

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