Finally, the lyrics to Louie Louie

In 1963 The Kingsmen recorded what has been called the “most famous rock ‘n’ roll song,” Louie Louie. It had immediate curb appeal. For that era the attitude and beat were arresting. But it became more famous for the fact that its lyrics were indiscernable. Hypotheses assumed urban legend proportion: either the words were so profane, or the acts described so vulgar, that the elocution was deliberately unintelligible. There was reputedly an FBI investigation of the song. Louie Louie was actually banned in Indiana by Governor Matthew Welsh.

With today’s internet one can access anything. Even the here-to-fore sacred lyrics of Louie Louie. It was written seven years prior to the famous recording, by Richard Barry, not a band member. The lyrics are G-rated, the lamentations of a Jamaican sailor, spoken to a man named Louie, probably a bartender.

You can listen to the song while reading the lyrics.

Louie, Louie, me gotta go.

Louie, Louie, me gotta go.

A fine little girl, she wait for me.

Me catch the ship across the sea.

I sailed the ship all alone.

I never think I’ll make it home.

Louie, Louie, me gotta go.

Three nights and days we sailed the see.

Me think of girl constantly.

On the ship, I dream she there.

I smell the rose in her hair.

Louie, Louie, me gotta go.

Me see Jamaican moon above.

It won’t be long me see me love

Me take her in my arms and then I tell her I never leave again.

Louie, Louie, me gotta go.

The song was recorded in one take. It’s replete with background chatter, an unrehearsed scream – “Let’s give it to ’em now!” – and flat out mistakes. Singer, Jack Ely, comes in at the wrong time after the guitar break and pauses for a musical phrase. Apparently the other band members couldn’t hear him because they continued at the expected beat, not allowing for the pause the singer made. Ironically, these errors are so ingrained in the public psyche that many bands have copied them into their covers of the song.

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2 Comments on “Finally, the lyrics to Louie Louie”

  1. Frank Paolo Says:

    I love stories like this! Now why don’t you
    explain “My Boy Lollipop”?

  2. Truly one of the great hear-what-you-want-to-hear, wish fulfillment songs in pop history; second place might go to Strawberry Fields.

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