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Minnie the Moocher is a well known song, most famously sung by Cab Calloway. It was written by Cab Calloway, Clarence Gaskill, and Irving Mills, and recorded by Cab Calloway and his orchestra in 1931. The song lyrics contain a lot of jive slang and involve call & answer jazz scatting with the audience. Cab Calloway became known as "The Hi De Hi De Hi Man" based on his scatting in Minnie the Moocher. Calloway later wrote more songs with the same call & answer "hi de hi" scats.

The song is about a sexual dancer (hoochie coocher) called Minnie, who loved a cocaine user (cokey). He took her to Chinatown (where opium dens were situated), Minnie takes opium for the first time (kick the gong around) then she has an opium dream about great riches. The jive slang used helps to obscure the explicit sordid story and results in the song being more palatable to a wider audience.

Modern audiences will most likely have first heard the song in the 1980 movie The Blues Brothers.

Lyrics from The Blues Brothers:
Hey folks here's the story 'bout Minnie the Moocher
She was a lowdown hoochie coocher
She was the roughest toughest frail
But Minnie had a heart as big as a whale
(Call & answer scats)
She messed around with a bloke named Smokey
She loved him though he was cokey
He took her down to Chinatown
and showed her how to kick the gong around
(Call & answer scats)
She had a dream about the king of Sweden
He gave her things that she was needin'
He gave her a home built of gold and steel
A diamond car with platinum wheels
(Call & answer scats)
He gave her his townhouse and his racing horses
Each meal she ate was a dozen courses
Had a million dollars worth of nickels and dimes
She sat around and counted them all a million times
(Call & answer scats)
Poor Min, poor Min, poor Minnie

 

On The Blues Brothers movie set, Calloway had a great time with everyone, enjoying his experience and telling stories about his past. He said that the director, "John Landis is something else. He is the greatest." However Calloway & Landis did get off to a rough start when they first met during the session to pre-record Minnie the Moocher for later playback. Landis describes it in "The Making of The Blues Brothers":

Well I had a rough start with Cab. He came to Chicago to pre-record Minnie, and he was quite taken aback by the tracks. He listened to them and he said, "That's the way it sounded 50 years ago." Cos we were recording 50 years to the day he had written it. And I said, "Yeah. That's what I want." And he wanted to do a disco. He had just cut a disco version of Minnie the Moocher. And he told me he'd done Minnie Cha Cha, done Minnie Twist, done Minnie Polka, done Minnie Rhumba, you know, done all the major dance crazes, and he didn't understand why we wanted to do this old fogey old-fashioned way, and I told him, "Because that's great. That's what I want." He was very unhappy about it, very bad mood, and, sort of this old guy, and he went into the recording studio and away there and did a take, and afterwards said, "How was that?" And I said, "I ... was unhappy with that, Cab" and his eyes got narrow and he said, "What was wrong with it?" So I said, "Well, it was mediocre, and you're Cab Calloway, so it should be great." And he said, "Oh GREAT? Oh I'm sorry, you didn't TELL me you wanted it GREAT." Really angry. So I was like real quiet, I was errrr. So he goes back in, he puts on the headphones. We do another take and it was Great. It was so added to the movie, it was Great. But he finishes and he takes off his headset and he says, "How was that?" I said, "That was great." And he said, "Well you gotta TELL me what you want!" and he just stormed out. And I thought, "oh shit", y'know. But then when he showed up on location, uh, he was lovely, and he had a wond... He had a really good time on the movie, and uh, so there were no problems. But I tell ya, it was a rocky start, I thought "oh oh."

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