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If someone you know (like, say, your father) has bought all of those Mob Hits CD’s, there is a fairly good chance that you have heard this song played incessantly along with a bunch of other tunes espousing the virtues of the old country and life in the old neighborhood. For those unaware of these, Mob Hits is a series of compilation albums that originally were made up of classic Italian-American pop songs that had been featured in mob movies, but now have pretty much moved on to consist any song sung by a singer of Italian decent. Singer Lou Monte originally released “Lazy Mary” in 1956.

C'è 'na luna mezz'u mare
Mamma mia m'a maritare
Figlia mia a cu te dare
Mamma mia pensace tu
Se te piglio lu pesciaiole
Isse vai isse vene
Sempe lu pesce mane tene
Se ce 'ncappa la fantasia
Te pesculia figghiuzza mia
Là lariulà pesce fritt'e baccalà
Uei cumpà no calamare c'eggi'accattà


(spoken) Second stanza!

C'è 'na luna mezz'u mare
Mamma mia m'a maritare
Figlia mia a cu te dare
Mamma mia pensace tu
Se te piglio lu pulezia
Isse vai isse vene
Semp'a scuppetta mane tene
Se ce 'ncappa la fantasia
Te scuppettea figghiuzza mia
Là lariulà pesce fritt'e baccalà
Uei cumpà 'na scuppetta c'eggi'accattà

(spoken) And now for you nice ladies and gentlemen out there who don’t understand the Eye-talian language, I’d like to do two choruses in British.

Lazy Mary you better get up
She answered back I am not able
Lazy Mary you better get up
We need the sheets for the table
Lazy Mary you smoke in bed
There's only one man you should marry
My advice to you would be
Is to pay attention to me

You’d better marry a fireman
He'll come and go, go and come
Sempe la pompa mane tene
Se ce 'ncappa la fantasia
Te pomperia figghiuzza mia
Là lariulà pesce fritt'e baccalà
Uei cumpà 'na pompina c'eggi'accattà
0 cummà ca m' voglio marità
Trovame 'na uagliotta
Ca me voglio marità
Trovame 'na uagliotta
Ca me voglio marità
Trovame 'na uagliotta
Ca me voglio marità

Hey!

The thing was, I knew I had heard “Lazy Mary” before, but I just couldn’t place the damn thing. My interest was also piqued by the seemingly risqué final line in English (“he’ll come and go, go and come”) and the sudden switch back to Italian. Was this innocent old song being peddled to suburban baby boomers secretly a little…nasty?

The answer finally came when I was showing my new DVD of The Godfather to a friend who had never seen the movie. During Connie’s wedding, a dirty old man takes the stage and proceeds to sing the Italian lyrics of “Lazy Mary”, complete with thrusting hand motions and laughter from the crowd. A-HA! It turns out I was onto something.

Everything started with a Sicilian sailor named Paolo Citorello back in the late 1920s. Citorello would sing old songs on long voyages, sometimes even making up his own. He wrote a song called “Luna Mezzo Mare” (“The Moon in the Middle of the Sea”) and recorded it with the Italian Book Company (which was also a record label). It turns out that the song wasn’t original, as some of the lines were taken from the Rossini song “La Danza.” Much of the music and lyrics also come from several Italian folk songs dating back to before 1871. “Luna Mezzo Mare” became a big hit and was recorded by several different artists in both Italy and the United States throughout the 1930s. Here are the English lyrics to Citorello’s song, which was the one featured in The Godfather (the chorus comes after every verse):

And the moon is in the middle of the sea:
oh my mother I must get married --
oh my daughter who will we get?
My mother I leave it up to you.

If I get you the butcher
he will come and he will go,
but he'll always hold the sausage in his hands...
if he gets a bright idea
he'll sausage you oh my daughter.

If I get you the fisherman
he will come and he will go,
but he'll always hold the fish in his hands...
if he gets a bright idea
he'll fish you oh my daughter.

If I get you the shoemaker
he will come and he will go,
but he'll always hold the shoe in his hands...
if he gets a bright idea
he'll shoe you oh my daughter.

If I get you the garden man
he will come and he will go,
but he'll always hold the cucumber in his hands...
if he gets a bright idea
he'll cucumber you oh my daughter.

There are also different versions of the song that feature a barber with his scissors (eew!), the woodcarver with his board, and the farmer with his plow.

In 1938 the song was reworked by radio star and singer Rudy Vallee and named "Oh! Ma-Ma! (The Butcher Boy).” It was here that the daughter Marie was inserted into the song. Thanks to Rudy’s huge radio popularity the song was a smash, and was covered by the likes of Dick Robertson, Gracie Fields, and the Andrews Sisters. Here’s the Andrews Sisters’ version:

Mama dear come over here
And see who's looking in my window
It's the butcher boy and oh
He's got a bundle in his hand
Tell me why he winks his eye whenever he goes by my window

Daughter daughter he's in love and you're in love
And love is grand

Hey, Marie!
I gotta da pork chop!
Hey, Marie!
I gotta da lamb chop!
Hey, Marie! Marie!
'Ya want ta marry me?

The butcher boy, the butcher boy
I wanna marry the butcher boy
Oh! Ma-Ma!
Oh, get that man for me!
Oh! Ma-Ma!
How happy I will be!
Tra-la-la
And cheery-beery be!
Oh, if I'm gonna marry,
It's the butcher boy for me!

Marie also entertains the baker boy (offering his fruitcake and cheesecake) and the fisher boy (hawking his codfish and skatefish) with pretty much the same lyrics.

After the Rudy Vallee era of the song, the original "Luna Mezzo Mare" surfaced again in the 1950s with versions by Dean Martin and Louis Prima. Martin chose to adlib lines about spaghetti, macaroni and mozzarella in order to cover up the “dirty” parts, while Prima chose to rename the song “Zooma Zooma,” added nonsense lyrics, and sang it so fast in his trademark guttural style that you couldn’t understand much anyway.

It was then that Lou Monte came out with his “Lazy Mary” version of the song. Most of the Italian lyrics are intact, but he sings about a soldier with his rifle instead of the shoemaker and he excises the lyrics about the butcher with his sausage and the gardener with his cucumber. His fireman also uses a pump instead of a hose. The lyrics about Mary were added by Monte himself and have nothing to do with the rest of the song.

And now you know.


A note to the copyright peeps: The original Citorello and the Rudy Vallee cover version are out of copyright and in the public domain. Lou Monte holds copyright only on the english lyrics of his version, which falls far below 250 words.

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