Product placement for a song

rum and coke2
Everyone is familiar with product placement in movies. Some obvious examples come to mind: The Reece’s Pieces in 1982’s E. T. The Extra-Terrestrial, the Mini Coopers in the 2003 film, The Italian Job, and most recently, Heineken Beer (along with some twenty-nine other products) in the 2012 James Bond adventure, Skyfall.
Perhaps less known are the product’s mentioned in popular songs. One of the earliest examples is in the old chestnut, Take Me Out To The Ballgame. Written in 1908 by Jack Norworth and later scored by Albert Von Tilzer, the chorus goes like this:
Take me out to the ball game,
Take me out with the crowd;
Buy me some peanuts and Cracker Jack,
I don’t care if I never get back.
Let me root, root, root for the home team,
If they don’t win, it’s a shame.
For it’s one, two, three strikes, you’re out,
At the old ball game.

Another oldie has the product in the title of the song, In My Merry Oldsmobile. Written in 1905, with music by Gus Edwards and lyrics by Vincent P. Bryan, the song’s chorus is one of the most enduring automobile-oriented songs:
Come away with me, Lucille
In my merry Oldsmobile
Down the road of life we’ll fly
Automobubbling, you and I.

Other songs that praise a product include Jo Stafford’s The Stanley Steamer (Words and Music by Ralph Blane and Harry Warren). The opening verse has these words:
Get your veil and get your duster
Get the yen for goggles when the wind’s a guster
Keep your Hubbard gown
Firmly belted down
When you’re out in your Stanley Steamer

Most recently is Fergie’s hit single Glamorous in which she cites both her fast-food addiction and automobile preferences, as exemplified in these lyrics:
I still go to Taco Bell
Drive through, raw as hell
I don’t care, I’m still real
No matter how many records I sell
After the show or after the Grammies
I like to go cool out with the family
Sippin’, reminiscing on days when I had a Mustang

Pure poetic product placement bliss!
But back in the era that this blog is about, namely, 1945-1955, there was a song that unashamedly plugged a product. That song was Rum And Coca-Cola.
Originally composed by Rupert Westmore Grant and Lionel Belasco, the song was copyrighted in the United States by an up-and-coming radio comedian by the name of Morey Amsterdam and became a huge hit in 1945 for the Andrews Sisters as well as others. Although the song was published in the United States with Amsterdam listed as the lyricist and Jeri Sullavan and Paul Baron as musical composers, the melody had been previously published as the work of Trinidadian calypso composer Lionel Belasco on a song titled L’Année Passée. The original lyrics to Rum and Coca-Cola were written by Rupert Grant, a calypso musician from Trinidad who went by the colorful moniker of Lord Invader. The true credits for music and lyrics were restored in a plagiarism lawsuit won by attorney Louis Nizer in 1948. Despite its popularity, Rum And Coca-Cola was controversial and radio stations in the USA would not play the song on the grounds of its using the copyrighted name, Coca-Cola, alcohol, and of its veiled references to prostitution. What do you think the lines, Both mother and daughter/Working for the Yankee dollar, really mean? They certainly do not mean taking in laundry! Not only did the song give free advertising to an alcoholic drink, but it also projected a most un-heroic image of America’s fighting forces. After all, even though there was no fighting going on in Trinidad, our armed forces were supposed to be out on the beaches looking for Nazi U-boats, not making “tropic love,” as the song describes! In response, the four radio networks banned the song from the airwaves. Even though by 1945 standards Rum And Coca Cola had naughty lyrics, they were not quite naughty enough to deny its hit status, for the song was the top single of 1945 in the United States.
To listen, click on the song title. To download, right click on the song title, then right click on Save target as.
The Andrews Sisters, Vic Schoen Orchestra Rum And Coca-Cola
Abe Lyman and his Orchestra, vocal: Rose Blane Run and Coca-Cola
Vaughn Monroe and his Orchestra, vocals: Vaughn Monroe, Rosemary Calvin, The Norton Sisters Rum and Coca-cola

1 Comment

Filed under Pop Music

One response to “Product placement for a song

  1. Interesting. I always thought that they were different. I thought that the items in movies were straight-forward ads for the product and that they paid the movie producer to have them inserted. I always figured that the song writers mentioned products for their own benefit … no one paid them to use the word. Have I been wrong?

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