OPINION: Steps to tap into life

Peter FiorenzaGeraldton Guardian
Sammy Davis Jnr’s name was synonymous with the hit Mr Bojangles. The singer is pictured here with Janet Holmes a Court in 1982.
Camera IconSammy Davis Jnr’s name was synonymous with the hit Mr Bojangles. The singer is pictured here with Janet Holmes a Court in 1982. Credit: Ian Cugly/WA News

The other day I heard Neil Diamond singing Mr Bojangles on the radio.

This song is one of my all-time favourites, since I first heard and saw the great Sammy Davis Jr sing it when I was very young.

Many artists have, but for me Sammy’s rendition was, indeed, very special.

The crooner put his own indelible spin on the classic that made the tune such a favourite with so many and made me feel good inside.

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Although he was not the first to sing it, Sammy Davis Jr is widely associated with the song, making it part of his stage shows and television performances for nearly 20 years.

Mr Bojangles is the story of an old street performer, who had fallen on rough times.

The song was written by country artist Jerry Jeff Walker in the late 1960s.

According to Walker, the lyrics are based on a homeless man he met in a New Orleans jail around that time, who referred to himself as Mr Bojangles.

Also, there is another interesting connection.

The nostalgic reference often to Bill “Bojangles” Robinson, when talking about this, gives the song an extra dimension.

Robinson was a tap dancer from the 1920s and 30s, who is well known for teaming up with child star, Shirley Temple on the silver screen.

Now, why does this song strike a chord with so many people?

Well, I reckon its because it touches on something that is so universally recognised and understood.

Not so much music and the act of dancing, but, more so the feeling that these evoke in us all.

We all lead different lives with various experiences and degrees of challenges but Mr Bojangles tends to suggest that we all know what it’s like to hit a low, yet go on to realise the simple joys of life.

Mr Bojangles first became a really big hit when it was recorded by the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band in 1970.

Today, there are almost 140 versions of the song, with artists from Neil Diamond, through to Lulu and even Harry Belafonte giving it a whirl.

More recently, exciting entertainer Robbie Williams added it to his repertoire.

And I think this is the best version yet ...

“He shook his head and as he shook his head

“I heard someone ask please

“Mr Bojangles

“Mr Bojangles

“Mr Bojangles

Dance ...”

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