Cover Battle – “Chim Chim Cheree” August 22, 2014
“Chim Chim Cheree” is a highlight of the Disney film Mary Poppins. It’s mostly sung by Dick Van Dyke, as a chimney sweep (Cockney accent? Not a success.) and the two little children accompanying him. Towards the end Julie Andrews joins in with Dick. (I didn’t mean that to sound dirty, but now that it does I’m gonna roll with it.)
In the song there’s a line “When there’s hardly no day , Nor hardly no night, there’s things half in shadow, And half way in light” that sounds, if not quite ominous, then at least a bit haunted or potentially disturbing. The version by Turin Brakes changes the tune from a light cheerful ditty to something darker and more serious. In this video version, we’re confronted with the face of homelessness. We look in the eyes of people we try to avoid and ignore and see that they’re human; just like us. The juxtaposition of the images with this happy, magical song from childhood is striking and takes you aback. I actually enjoyed this reworking. I think it’s quite wonderfully done. Please note: all proceeds from the sale of this song go to shelters in Amarillo, Texas and in the UK.
Next I have a version from the movie, Saving Mr. Banks, about the efforts it took to get Mary Poppins to the screen. It’s a lovely little piano piece, with a recitation from Colin Farrell , who plays the father of P.L. Travers, the creator of Mary Poppins.
Allan Sherman did a very funny parody lampooning the myriad number of products sold on tv.
Duke Ellington does an excellent take on this, adding horns, drum and big orchestration, without overpowering the piece. It’s very jazzy and truly elegant. The music ends around the 2:48 mark, but for some reason the vid continues on for over a minute more. This is the only one I found with just this song on it. There’s another YouTube hit for Ellington’s version but it has 4 other songs as well, and goes on for 15 minutes. So take your pick.
The Manheim Steamroller version is strictly instrumental. It starts out very creepy, then adds a sense of whimsy. It sounds like something that you’d hear on the soundtrack for a Tim Burton film. In that context it might be kind of cool, but just listening to it on the fly, it’s a little weird and a bit macabre.
In the hands of Esperanza Spalding this song is it’s virtually unrecognizable, though not in a bad way. It’s mostly instrumental with a little vocalization thrown in here and there. It sounds completely magical and she transforms it into high art.
Not too sure what to make of the last one here. It’s just a snippet, and it’s performed by comedian David Alan Grier, in the movie Amazon Women on the Moon. There’s even a B.B. King cameo. David’s part ends around the 3:55 mark. I’m not sure what’s going on with this movie but I think I might have to check it out.