Cuba libre

While it is true that my current job preparing and correcting old film soundtrack spreadsheets has sapped a little of my energy of late, it is also true that I am finding my previously evaporating reservoir of pop culture minutiae to be refilling at a healthy rate. Interesting things keep popping up in the least likely locations.

Take, for example, the song “Rum and Coca-Cola.” I’ve heard this chirpy little song from the ’40s a billion times and hardly given it a second thought. I say “hardly” rather than “never” because I know I gave it a second thought the first time I realized that the lyrics had something to do with a mother-daughter prostitute team, but still:

Working for that yanqui dollar sounds so sunny and relaxed when sisters from Minnesota sing about it, doesn’t it?

Anyway, the other day I was looking this song up on the ASCAP website and saw Morey Amsterdam listed as a co-writer. Morey Amsterdam? Little sarcastic Buddy Sorrell from The Dick Van Dyke Show wrote “Rum and Coca-Cola”? Wow. Neat.

But it got better. Morey Amsterdam didn’t write “Rum and Coca-Cola,” but he did hear “Rum and Coca-Cola” when he was on a trip to Trinidad, and when he came back to the States he told some cute young girl singer that he wrote it and she could use it in her nightclub act.

The cute young girl singer did use it, and after it became quite successful for her, she started making arrangements for it to be published under her own name. Morey got mad, the girl probably said something like “I know you didn’t write this song, you dope, and I’ll tell everyone if you don’t split the copyright with me” and they eventually agreed to share the songwriting credit.

By the time the song hit the charts, the original songwriter in Trinidad found out about Morey and the girl taking credit, and he was mad. And I don’t know about you, but I don’t think I would want this guy mad at me, because his name was Lord Invader. I am not making this up. Some of Lord Invader’s pals in Trinidad were named The Mighty Growler and Attila the Hun. Also Macbeth the Great and Lord Of Iron. Not a bunch of guys to fuck around with.

Lord Invader came to New York, and instead of raining hellfire and bees down upon Morey and the girl, he filed a lawsuit. Things got very complicated with a bunch of other side lawsuits, but eventually Lord Invader won. Unfortunately, he very quickly spent all the money from the settlement and died quietly while Morey and the girl bought the rights to the song, and today if you look up “Rum and Coca Cola” on the ASCAP website, you will see Morey Amsterdam, the girl singer, and some other random guy I’ve never heard of listed as the writers.

Now, this whole thing makes me mad, and I will never look at this bookmark


with the same amount of zesty zilliness I once might have, but at least now I know the truth. Lord Invader, I salute you.

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