In 1964 the Dixie Cups initially recorded their new song “Iko Iko”, but it was not released until about a year after being recorded. Quickly the song became an international hit, charting at number twenty for ten weeks in a row. Over the years this song had been used in many different films, such as The Big Easy, The Hangover, Rain Man and many more. “Iko Iko” was based on a commonly used song in New Orleans for parties and celebrations like parades, and was not actually supposed to be recorded.
The Dixie Cups were recording another one of their song for Leiber and Stoller at the time, but during a break the girls began singing old songs they had learned from their mother just for fun. “Iko Iko ” was originally a call and response chant from a Mardi Gras Indian tribe that their mother used to sing to them as children. They were messing around with the song, incorporating the sound of drumsticks on ashtrays, a Coke bottle, a chair and most likely other random things around the studio, in an attempt to have a good time. The girls were not aware that the tapes were still running and they were being recorded by Leiber and Stoller. Once the girls were done, Leiber and Stoller expressed that they like what they heard and wanted them to rerecord it so it could be in a better quality to be sold as a record. Even in 1965 when the Dixie Cups released “Iko Iko” they still were not aware of the origins of that song, only that they’d heard their mother sing it in the past, so it was special to them and fun to record.
As it turns out, “Iko Iko” was was actually written in 1953 by James Crawford being originally titled as “Jock-a-Mo”. Crawford says that it tells a story of something he had witnessed between two indian tribes during a Mardi Gras parade. The origins of the song had come from the two chants that he heard, all he did was put music to the lyrics. He combined the two chants he heard, with his intention being to just write a catchy song. ‘Iko Iko’ was supposedly used as like an expression of victiry that the Indians would shout at the conclusion of a battle. ‘Jock-A-Mo’ was a chant that was shouted before and during the battles.
After The Dixie Cups released their version a bunch of controversy surrounding them possibly copying crawford came into play. The Dixie Cups claimed they did not know any of this information because they had only ever heard it before from their mother, but still in the end they were sued by crawford for the rights to the song. By the end of the court case, Crawford actually did not win the rights to the song, but was instead given 25% of any profit made from anyone performing that specific song. After doing some research, “Iko Iko” and “Jock-A-Mo” were very similar so in my opinion James Crawford definitely had good reasoning for suing The Dixie Cups.
Overall though, he is extremely catchy and different from most popular songs heard today so all versions of it should definitely be valued and appreciated.