Whose Song Is It Anyway?

August is going to be music month here. I feel like I’ve been neglecting the subject lately. Also, I just got a new microphone and had a week home alone to test it out. Here’s my first experiment:

This is just a quick recording of the song “Iko Iko” which has been covered by everyone from The Grateful Dead to Cyndi Lauper to Aaron Carter. I used the lyrics from The Dixie Cups’ version (because they all seem to have slightly different wording) which has been coming up on our house radio a lot lately. I also found something interesting when looking for the lyrics.

In 1953, James “Sugar Boy” Crawford released a song called “Jock-a-mo” with his band, Sugar Boy and the Cane Cutters. It failed to make the charts. About ten years later, The Dixie Cups were in the recording studio and started an impromptu version of “Iko Iko” while drumming on chairs, an ashtray, and a Coke bottle. They had learned it from hearing their grandmother sing it, but didn’t know of its origin.

In 1965, The Dixie Cups’ version became a hit and James Crawford sued. The suit was eventually settled with Crawford making no claim of ownership or authorship, but receiving 25% of public performances. It didn’t end there, though. In 1990, the band’s former manager, Joe Jones, filed a copyright registration alleging he and his family had written the song. The band sued him after he licensed the song outside of North America. In 2002, the jury unanimously affirmed The Dixie Cups were the sole writers of “Iko Iko”.

It seems crazy that such a simple, catchy song could create such legal controversy spanning over forty years. Perhaps that helped it stay popular in the long run. In addition to the covers, The Dixie Cups’ version itself has appeared on the soundtrack to many movies, TV shows, and even commercials.

All information is from this Wikipedia article. It’s a really interesting read, if you want more information on the various versions.

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