Five For Friday: Instrumentals With Human Voice

As I mentioned last week, there are a number of instrumentals that feature the human voice in some form: speaking, whistling, singing either with syllables (e.g. "la la la" or "ooh") or with a phrase repeated (e.g. "people all over the world" in MFSB’s "TSOP"). I’ve gathered five examples for your listening enjoyment.

  1. Ramsey Lewis with Earth, Wind & Fire, "Sun Goddess": Title track from Ramsey’s 1974 album. The song was written by Maurice White and Jon Lind and reached #20 on the Hot Soul Singles chart and #44 on the Hot 100.

  2. Chicago, "Happy ‘Cause I’m Going Home": From 1971’s Chicago III, written by Robert Lamm. Lamm and Pete Cetera "la la" through the first half, the second half is an extended flute solo by Walt Parazaider. This has been covered several times, notably by Charles Earland.

  3. Danish National Symphony Orchestra, "The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly": The Ennio Morricone theme song as covered by the Danish National Symphony and The Danish National Choir, under the direction of Sarah Hicks. Christine Nonbo Andersen does the vocalization and whistling throughout, with Tuva Semmingsen does the vocalization in the second half. The orchestra did several works by Morricone that are out on YouTube, so you might want to check them out.

  4. Toots Thielemans, "Bluesette": Best known for his harmonica playing, Toots was also a remarkable guitarist who could whistle the notes as he was playing, which, speaking from experience, is not as easy as it looks, particularly not at the level of expertise with which he does it.

  5. Van McCoy, "The Hustle": According to Wikipedia, no one had much faith that Van’s 1975 album Disco Baby would do especially well when it was released, but somehow "The Hustle," inspired by dancers at a New York nightclub doing the dance, took off and became a #1 hit on the Hot 100 and the R&B, Adult Contemporary, and Dance charts and won the Grammy in 1976 for Best Pop Instrumental Performace. (There were apparently two dances called "The Hustle," an East Coast and a West Coast version. The song worked with either one.)

And that’s Five For Friday for June 11, 2021.

10 thoughts on “Five For Friday: Instrumentals With Human Voice

  1. I had no time on Friday to listen to this while I was working but loved it especially The Ennio Morricone rendition from The Good, The Bad and The Ugly. The last part, when The Ugly (poor Eli Wallach) was running through the cemetery to find the grave, is one of my all time favourite. This conductor is excellent is exacting the right tempo and love the woman soprano. I must see an Ennio Morricone evening with a full symphony! The Hustle always makes me think of The Love Boat. I remember trying to learn the steps with my friend in her yard among the chickens, goats and geese. It was hard avoiding the poop.

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    1. I knew you’d enjoy the Morricone piece. I like it better than the original. Maybe it’s because I can see the musicians. As for “The Hustle,” did the poop make you a better dancer?

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  2. John, I have a question for you that you, if anyone I know of, might be able to answer. Back in the early sixties, there was an instrumental pop song titled “Midnight” (at least I think that was the title). It was fairly popular on the top forties station I listened to in the DC area at the time. I don’t remember the name of the group that recorded it, but I loved that song and have been trying to find it for a number of years. As someone I consider to be a music aficionado, can you help me out?

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