April 25

What if Gilbert and Sullivan had written rap…

10  comments

I love the light comic operas of William Gilbert and Arthur Sullivan: the melodies are infectious and the librettos are hilarious, especially if you lived in fin de siecle London. Many of the characters are spoofs of people (usually politicians) who were in power at the time. My favorite is H.M.S. Pinafore, which contains my favorite number Now Give Three Cheers. This song I have sung countless times in the shower performing not just the captain’s part but all the rest as well.
A close second to the H.M.S. Pinafore is The Pirates of Penzance and during one of those bizarre wilfings I often do late at night and unsupervised (I was searching for Linda Rondstadt; don’t ask why) I came upon a segment of this opera, which led me to the bizarre selection that follows.
Take a look at this rap video. Watch it all the way through and note the language, not necessarily the vulgar language (which seems to be common to most rap songs), but the construction of the song, the libretto, if you will. Then imagine that William Gilbert, the librettist for the Gilbert and Sullivan operas had presented this libretto to Sullivan to set to music. This has been done by someone who is extremely creative and has a ton (no, two tons) of time on his hands.
First, the rap video, Baby Got Back, a famous one from the 90s:
[youtube]k4he79krseU[/youtube]
Now the absolutely brilliant parody using footage from The Pirates of Penzance movie starring Kevin Kline, Rex Smith, and Linda Rondstat. Listen to the words and look at the coordination of the song. How much time must this have taken?
Enjoy.
[youtube]qkJdEFf_Qg4[/youtube]
Once you’ve quit laughing if you want to watch the actual scene from the movie from which this parody was made, check it out here. If you’re not familiar with Gilbert and Sullivan, you’ll see what I mean about infectious melodies and clever lyrics. And you’ll see what a bang up job the guy did who put the parody together in keeping with the spirit of G & S. Plus it’s great fun to watch Kevin Kline do opera, even comic opera.
[youtube]R1dy44jV8EM[/youtube]


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  1. That was, as the kids say, made of awesome. Of course, now I’ve got it stuck in my head and will walk around singing it all day, so I’ve got that going for me.
    I had it stuck in my head all day yesterday, so I know what you mean. 
    Cheer–
    MRE 

  2. two comments:
    1) gee Dr. Mike, you sure are square! Gilbert and Sullivan? oh my god…
    2) it seems like you could do this with any kind of music, good or bad. Picture the same thing with, say, Satisfaction, or Whole Lotta Love, or Born to Run, or Rocky Mountain High, or Bad Bad LeRoy Brown, or….
    all that said, it was pretty funny…
    I’m sure it could be done with any music, but it WAS done with Baby Got Back.  I don’t think it would be as funny with some of the other songs you mentioned because there isn’t the wide disparity in style of music.
    Cheers–
    MRE 

  3. G&S: Nice.
    If you like them and rap, Del tha Funkee Homosapien might be your style. Not too foul mouthed, but the guy has a vocabulary up to any dictionary. Nice flow too.
    I’m not a big fan of rap.  I gave Del tha Funkee Homosapien a try on YouTube, and, you’re right, he does have an interesting vocabulary, but it still didn’t convert me to being a rap fan.
    Cheers–
    MRE 

  4. Very funny! I loved the G&S version which has to be one of the most creative things I’ve seen lately. I’ve always had a fond spot for Baby Got Back (although not so much some of the language) because, well, I’ve always had “back,” something we white girls aren’t supposed to have too much of. Those two girls at the beginning of the video were spot on about that attitude.
    The G&S version is incredibly creative, and I haven’t been able to get the tune out of my head since first watching it.  Fortunately, we white males don’t have a lot of ‘back’ to worry about.  What we’ve got if we don’t watch our carbs is ‘front.’
    Cheers–
    MRE

  5. That was brilliant. Loved it!
    I am a fairly accomplished musician, and grew up listening to Gilbert & Sullivan, but I could never, ever, EVER sing that fast. Can Mrs. Dr. Eades sing it?
    Hi Karen–
    I asked Mrs. Dr. Eades, who has one of the fastest mouths in the West, if she could sing it.  She said she thought if she really worked on it that she could.
    Cheers–
    MRE 

  6. AS an aside, have you heard Tom Lehrer’s recitation of the periodic chart of the elements to the “Modern Major General” song?
    No, but I’ve heard a million other things sung to it. One of the funniest would make no sense to anyone but someone living in Arkansas twenty years ago. There is a semi-annual event put on in Little Rock on off-election years called the Farkleberry Follies that lampoons all the politicians in office and all the politician wannabes. It is great fun and most of the politicians themselves show up–Clinton always attended. During the most of the years that Clinton was governor, the attorney general was a guy named Steve Clark. Mr. Clark ultimately resigned in disgrace over fleecing the state of a bunch of money by turning in bogus expense reports. Mr. Clark had one of those goody goody faces that we’re all familiar with; the perfect face for a politician. (I’m sure if you google his name and arkansas and attorney general you’ll turn up a pic and see what I mean.) One of the acts at the Farkleberry Follies one year while Clark was riding high was called the Pirate of Pissant (which was a perfect characterization) and was sung to the tune of I am a Modern Major General but was about I an a modern Attorney General. It was hilarious and I would give anything for a recording of it.
    Cheers–
    MRE

  7. This was hilarious. I showed this to my kids, who already know the rap. I just showed them the Gilbert and Sullivan parody and they sung along.
    Hi Mary–
    I’m glad the kids enjoyed it; I certainly did.
    Cheers–
    MRE 

  8. Thanks for posting this!! I am a long time fan of Gilbert and Sullivan and once I followed your link for the “real” Major General song, I then checked out a couple of others. I’ll happily be humming the songs for the rest of the night!!

  9. As someone who has performed in Pirates of Penzance, I must say, that was absolutely hilarious!
    I auditioned for the Major General; yes, the patter is extremely difficult! I was actually given the role of 1st Pirate Lt. Samuel, which I think ended up being a more fun role since I got to flesh out the character as I saw fit.
    Also, flashing-back to our choreography while watching the spoof had me rolling all that much more.
    Pour, oh pour the pirate’s sherry!

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