Six Versions of the Same Song: Mahna Mahna

Mahna Mahna.

You’ve heard it. You’ve seen it. It’s the Muppets, right?

But you may NOT know that, for a nonsense song without any real lyrics, this song has a LOT of history, alternate versions, and fun covers.Β  I have this weird tendency to get stuck on a particular song, and start listening to covers and live versions and all kinds of things… And this is easy to do with Mahna Mahna, because there are myriad alternate versions out there. It’s awesome. πŸ˜€Β  If you can stomach listening to this song over and over, the way I (and my kids) can, then here are 6 different versions of Mahna Mahna for you to enjoy!

How does this relate to Disney, you may ask?Β  Muppets. Nuff said. πŸ™‚

1. The One You’ve All Seen:

This is the way that nearly everyone on earth knows this song. From a 1976 episode of The Muppet Show (purportedly the very first episode, from what I have read), Mahna Mahna and the Snowths perform the weird little tune.

But guess what? That was not the first time that the Muppets had performed this number.

1a. This isn’t actually a video of Mahna Mahna so it doesn’t count, but the Ed Sullivan show first hosted the routine, before the Muppet Show was created, as far back as 1969. I can’t find a recording on YouTube, but this video below shows it briefly, right around the 47-second mark.

2. This Ed Sullivan show performance, however, was just the first appearance of the Mahna Mahna Muppet and the Snowths. It had already appeared in a little quickie sketch on Sesame Street in 1969, with a performance by a character called “Bip Bippadotta”:

This performance was Jim Henson as Bip, and Frank Oz and Loretta Long as the two girls. You’ll note that when Bip comes in, muttering “Mahna Mahna”, one of the girls says “Isn’t that the name of a song?”

Indeed it was. Unknown to most, this song was NOT written for the Muppets – like most of their famous numbers, in fact. Jim Henson had a widely varying taste in music and most of the numbers on the Muppet Show are covers of real songs, some old and some contemporary. (The best ones tend to be older, actually, like “Ukulele Lady” or “TheΒ Bird on Nellie’s Hat”. Look them up!)

3. “Mahna Mahna” is actually an Italian novelty pop song – Mah NΓ  Mah NΓ  – composed in 1968 by Piero Umiliani and a bit later, used in a film called “Sweden, Heaven & Hell”. The original, while slightly faster than the Muppet Show version, is not all that different from what we’re familiar with.

Had enough yet? No? Good, because I do have more. πŸ™‚

4. A couple of years ago I discovered that it’s a popular internet trend to “cover” Mahna Mahna and the Snowths, and by covering, I mean doing live reenactments of the sketch. My favourite is below: it’s just weird enough to be adorable and, unlike some of the others, doesn’t involve… slightly alarming masks on the performers. πŸ˜‰

5. While we’re on the subject of covers, the best one I have found is by Cake. Yeah, the “Going The Distance” rock band. Them. πŸ™‚ Now THIS one really reinvents the sound of the song! They replace the Snowths with guitar but keep the Mahna Mahna vocals… kind of. I don’t think they literally say “mahna mahna”… it sounds more like “bada bada”. But it works. And they’re all over the place with the sound; it’s really a fun listen! πŸ˜€

5a. Now that you’ve enjoyed yourself some Cake, let me bring it back to Disney a little bit and show you the bestest best Star Wars fan video ever made, ever. Trust me, you won’t mind listening to the Cake cover twice in a row. πŸ˜€

And finally, bringing us full circle, here is NOT a cover but a sort of re-use of Mahna Mahna, WITH the Muppets, including a guest appearance by the Snowths!

6. In 2012, Cee Lo Green and the Muppets used the tune of Mahna Mahna in the chorus of Cee Lo’s Christmas song, “All I Need Is Love”, which he performed with the Muppets. It’s a GREAT second-gen (which is what I call the current Muppet cast/incarnations) music video, song, and everything! And yes, I know it’s not Christmas, but c’mon. It’s the Muppets, Cee Lo Green, and just general coolness. πŸ˜€ You really don’t need to be celebrating Christmas right at this moment to enjoy this. πŸ™‚ (YOU GUYS. THERE IS A CEE LO GREEN MUPPET IN THIS VIDEO. COME ON.)

The Walter and Santa scene is my favourite part. XD I love Walter. He’s too adorable. (I will admit that this scene in “The Muppets” might have cemented my love for him. I dare you to watch that without laughing.)

Enjoy! πŸ™‚

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5 thoughts on “Six Versions of the Same Song: Mahna Mahna

    • That is actually EPIC! Listening to Japanese always makes me wish that I understood it. πŸ˜› But it’s funny that they’re a Brazilian band… I might have imagined it but it seems like there are one or two spots where she sings the Japanese lyrics with a little bit of a Brazilian accent. TINY bit. XD

      I would totally add this to the blog post but then it would be “Seven versions”, and so instead I think I’ll just put it on my YouTube playlist! Thanks!!

  1. BEST post EVER! Took me from the office lunchroom back in time to the family room at my childhood home in Closter, NJ where I watched that 1969 version on TV and remember it like it was yesterday (dark brown shag carpeting included). Then STARWARS then THE MUPPETS! Oh, thank you for making a crappy winter Monday into a fun, happy day!!!

    • Haha, this is the best comment ever! ;D This post came about b/c I was showing my kids some (age appropriate) Cee Lo Green videos… there are a couple, lol… and the Christmas one was the last one. They LOVE Mahna Mahna so after that we had to watch a few other versions, and I found out my husband hadn’t known the song didn’t originate with the Muppets so we researched it and found the original. And then I thought, well, the Muppets are technically Disney now so why not pull all this together…?

      It was SO much fun to write! And really satisfying to get onto something everyone else seems to like as much as I do! ^_^ Thanks for this comment, and I’m happy to bring a little fun to a grey day! πŸ™‚

  2. Pingback: Weekly Round Up: February 4 | Mouse on the Mind

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