Songs That Shaped Rock and Roll: "Louie Louie"

Wednesday, December 14: 11 a.m.
Posted by Rock Hall
The Kingsmen's "Louie Louie" is one of the Songs That Shaped Rock and Roll

The most notorious song in rock and roll history has been recorded hundreds of times: by surfers (the Beach Boys, the Pyramids), punks (the Stooges, Black Flag), British rockers (the Kinks, the Troggs) and marching bands (U.S.C. Trojans, Rice University Marching Owls). During the first half of the 1960s, it was probably played at more live events than the National Anthem. R&B artist Richard Berry (who sang lead on The Coasters' "Riot In Cell Block No. 9") wrote and recorded "Louie Louie" in 1956.The record came out a year later, was a West Coast hit, and died a natural death. A few years later after the Tacoma, Washington-based Wailers recorded it, "Louie Louie" entered the set lists of various Northwest bands. One was Portland, Oregon's Kingsmen, who recorded the song in 1963. What the Kingsmen thought was a rehearsal run-through was the performance issued on 45. That might explain singer Jack Ely's garbled reading. People heard in the Kingsmen's "Louie Louie" what they wanted to hear – a song that just had to be dirty. Radio stations banned it, and sweaty- palmed juveniles made up their own lewd lyrics. Even the U.S. government investigated the song. Nowadays all is forgiven. The happiest  ending came to composer  Berry, who innocently wrote "I take her in my arms  then/I tell her I'll never  leave her again": In 1985, he won back his share of  the publishing and songwriting rights he'd sold 28 years  earlier. 

Listen to and learn the stories behind the Songs That Shaped Rock and Roll with the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame's unique app! This app features clips of more than 500 songs, each with cover art, and fascinating artist and recording notes. The searchable list of songs is also divided among decades and artists, so finding and hearing exactly what you want is easy! It's perfect for trivia buffs, music lovers and fans of rock and roll! Click here to learn more!



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