Unknown to many around the world, April 11th, is International Louie Louie Day. Louie Louie was first produced in 1956 by Richard Berry and has been covered internationally, with thousands of versions, across many languages. However, music critics and listeners alike always seem to battle over the contribution that this song has given the international music community. Is the song a piece of garbage, musically? Is Louie Louie the best one hit wonder to date? Or Is Louie Louie one of the most significant contributions to music of the past 70 years–is it a rock standard? Well I think the answer is not a simple yes or no to any of the previous questions. What I do know is that Louie Louie is all of the above; technically speaking, Louie Louie is a basic chord progression in A. However Louie Louie is also a famous pop single for many bands, arguably a rock standard, and in my personal opinion, possibly the first punk song, and definitely the first garage rock song ever produced. Some lovers of Louie Louie have even speculated that the significance of the song is so great because it is in fact the musical missing link that connects the sounds of the 50’s and the sounds of the 60’s. Whatever the case, Louie Louie is a song that deserves some study and definitely a holiday!
The history of the song is complex and strange. As the story goes, Berry’s original single was a minor success and so he sold the rights to the song. However, as opposed to dying into the abyss of one hit wonders, Louie Louie had a resurgence and was embraced by bands like the Wailers, The Sonics, and others who were heading up a cultural garage rock movement in the the Northwest United States. Louie Louie had such a strong impact on Washington state music that it was voted the official state song. After the northwest garage rock movement, everyone seemed to pick up the song and produce versions of it. The Kinks, The Clash, The Kingsmen, Paul Revere and the Raiders, Iggy Pop and many many others have modified, copied, and reproduced Louie Louie, turning what was a minor music contribution by a little known Richard Berry and have turned it into a rock standard that noe has an international music holiday. I’m not sure if a song by Mozart has an international holiday.
To be given a musical holiday demonstrates that Louie Louie is a mammoth song that in some crazy way ended up becoming one of the most influential songs of the 20th century. And so no matter what your personal stance on the song is, you cannot deny the magnitude and importance of Louie Louie to the ever growing museum of music. Enjoy International Louie Louie Day, put your head phones on and celebrate the rock/punk/pop standard that is Louie Louie.
Enjoy the original song by Richard Berry
Enjoy these highly influential Louie Louie covers! Happy Louie Louie Day!