Listening to SiriusXM last week, I was struck by a song I’d never heard before…or rather, a performance of a song I’d never heard before.
“Mr. Bojangles” is most famous as Sammy Davis Jr.’s “signature” song, I suppose; until the other day that was really all I knew about this song. I’m not a big Sammy Davis Jr. listener, so I’m therefore really not very familiar with this song at all. (Disclaimer: That is to say, Sammy Davis Jr. is an artist with whom I am largely unfamiliar. I’m not a big listener of his in the sense that I haven’t heard much of him, not in the sense that I don’t care for his work much. I have almost no opinion.) All I do know of this song is that it has a gently rocking kind of triple-time waltz rhythm and that it’s about a guy named Bojangles who dances.
But last week, SiriusXM’s 1970s channel served up “Mr. Bojangles”, performed by the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band. I’m not a whole lot more familiar with the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band than I am with Sammy Davis Jr., but I know that they’re a country band whose album Will the Circle Be Unbroken is one of the great bluegrass albums of all time, so this got me wondering about “Mr. Bojangles”, which I had always figured was an older song, to be so strongly associated with a Rat Pack guy like Sammy Davis Jr.
Turns out, though, that “Me. Bojangles” was written in 1968 by country singer-songwriter Jerry Jeff Walker. The song got covered a bunch over the next batch of years, but Sammy Davis Jr. really made it his song. For more on that, read this wonderful article–but for now, here’s that rendition that stopped me in my tracks, the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band and “Mr. Bojangles”.