Behind the Hits: Lou Monte’s ‘Lazy Mary’
Here it is… il finale!
If you have a little catching up to do on the history of [lastfm link_type=”artist_info”]Lou Monte[/lastfm]’s “Lazy Mary,” start from the beginning HERE. Otherwise, let’s finish our journey, which should make you feel anything but lazy!
After the Rudy Valee era of the song, the original “Luna Mezzo Mare” surfaced again in the 1950s with a version by [lastfm link_type=”artist_info”]Dean Martin[/lastfm] and then the Lou Monte version as “Lazy Mary.” Martin’s rendition, in 1951, is a silly throwaway.
But it’s an interesting transition back from “Oh! Ma-Ma! (The Butcher Boy),” since it uses the same musical arrangement. Dino does sing in dialect of the Butcher and his Sicilian sausage, but he also ad-libs about spaghetti, macaroni and mozzarella. He also says in the record that it’s not easy for him to sing the song, since he doesn’t speak very good, as he calls it, “Itralian.” In the ’60s, New Orleans-born [lastfm link_type=”artist_info”]Louis Prima[/lastfm] put his own spin on the song, calling it “Che La Luna”, performed in a Dixieland style. Prima was probably the only star of the rock ‘n’ roll era whose career went back as far as Cirorello’s original (he started performing in the early 1930s).
The most bizarre uses of the song occurred in two novelty records. First was “Italian Martians” by Tony March. Although a Rockabilly singer, Tony was himself Italian (Tony Marchianda) and this release came in the wake of the first Chipmunk records, featuring the sped-up voices of “Pasquale and Luigi,” Martians who sang in Italian! They performed snippets of “Luna Mezzo Mare,” “O Sole Mio” and (Louis Prima’s) “Oh Marie.” Then in 1965 the group Tino & the Revlons recorded something called “Lazy Mary Memphis.” As the title implies, it was a hard-to-imagine combination of “Luna” along with Monte’s “Mary” lyrics, but sung to the tune of the [lastfm link_type=”artist_info”]Johnny Rivers[/lastfm] version of the [lastfm link_type=”artist_info”]Chuck Berry[/lastfm] song “Memphis.” This oddity actually charted for two weeks in September of that year on WMCA in New York.
Then “Luna” moved into the movies, most notably in The Godfather. About the first half-hour of the film takes place at a wedding reception, where Don Corleone (Marlon Brando) must grant favors to those who ask him. “It’s part of the wedding,” explains Tom Hagen (Robert Duvall). “No Sicilian can refuse any request on his daughter’s wedding day.” It’s during the reception that the Don delivers the famous line, “I’m gonna make him an offer he can’t refuse,” and it’s also during the reception that he tells a Sinatra-like crooner, “A man who doesn’t spend time with his family can never be a real man.” Meanwhile, the wedding guests take turns singing choruses of “Luna Mezzo Mare.” Unfortunately, the song is not on The Godfather soundtrack. But it does make another appearance in a 1999 Hugh Grant movie, Mickey Blue Eyes. There, it’s performed by session singer Frank Simms, whose credits include work with [lastfm link_type=”artist_info”]David Bowie[/lastfm], [lastfm link_type=”artist_info”]Harry Chapin[/lastfm] and [lastfm link_type=”artist_info”]Peter Frampton[/lastfm], among others. His “Luna Mezzo Mare” is featured on the soundtrack CD.
Most recently the song has shown up in some very diverse places. “Lazy Mary” got punked in the summer of 2001 at the famous club CBGB, when the group Collider decided to end “a decades long draught of Italian wedding music in the New York underground rock scene.” The song has been heard on The Simpsons, and in 2003 German ice dancers Miriam-Olivia Steinel and Vladimir Tsvetkov used “Luna Mezzo Mare” as part of their free dance routine.
In one form or another, Citorello’s ditty lives on as one of the archetypes of Italian-American music. As Malpezzi and Clements point out:
” …songs dealing with courtship and marriage have endured in the Americanized life of Sicilian immigrants and their descendants. Perhaps because they deal with subjects related to marriage, a rite of passage involving a family heritage that might emphasize regional traditions, these songs have maintained their vitality longer than some other material in the Sicilian folksong heritage.”
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