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Top 10 Songs About Monkeys

It is surprising how many songs feature animals. And, it is even more surprising that there are plenty of songs about monkeys. That is what we are going to look at in this article. But, before we do, let’s just clear up something.

What is a Monkey?

Just to get the ground rules clear, what constitutes being called a monkey? Probably easier to say what it isn’t, and one thing that is definitely not a monkey is a chimpanzee. That is one of the great apes. But, there are ten main different types of monkeys.

However, for this list, I am going to include the chimps and the apes along with the monkeys. So, if anyone wonders why there is one of the great apes in a list about monkey songs, that is why.

A Description

Songs About Monkeys

In the English language, ‘monkey’ is a term that can be used descriptively. It can be used to describe an action, a behavior pattern, or even a burden that someone carries.

Having A ‘Monkey Mind’

In Buddhism, having a ‘monkey mind’ means you are not concentrating on the matter at hand. It is understood by Buddhists to be a part of the mind that controls our actions.

Quite often, when there are songs with monkey in the title, it is not about the primate at all. It is used to describe one of the conditions I have just mentioned. 

So, let’s take a look at some of the songs that have monkeys or apes in the title or are about them.

Too Much Monkey Business (Live) by The Yardbirds

Yes, this was a Chuck Berry song that he wrote and released in 1956 on a B-side. Yes, it has been covered by too many people to mention, The Beatles included. They played it on a BBC radio program in 1963. However, I have included this version for a reason. 

Something was stirring in southwest London. Specifically at the Crawdaddy Club at the Station Hotel in Richmond and Eel Pie Island down the road in Twickenham.

Liverpool might have had The Cavern, but London had those two venues south of the river. The Rolling Stones had been resident at the Crawdaddy. This, despite promoter Giorgio Gomelsky having to offer two tickets for the price of one entry fee.  

Goodbye Stones, Here Come The Yardbirds

I was too young to go in, so I stood outside with plenty of others. The Stones were pretty good. But, they left around 64 and were replaced by The Yardbirds. 

How much better were they than the Stones? Heaps better at the basic ‘Chuck Berry-type’ rock n roll everyone was serving up. Just no comparison. The first song I heard them play there was “Too Much Monkey Business.” They nailed it.

This is the reason I have included it. I usually like to include the originals in these ‘Songs about…’ lists. But this was exceptional. The Yardbirds went through a few incarnations with Eric Clapton, Jimmy Page, and Jeff Beck all playing with them at one time or another in those early days.

And The Song?

A tale about people running around, doing stuff but getting nowhere, as simple as that. It was a major influence on Bob Dylan when he wrote “Subterranean Homesick Blues.”

Everybody’s Got Something To Hide Except Me And My Monkey by The Beatles

Probably the longest title of any Beatles song. Come to think of it; it may be the longest title of any song. It was composed by John Lennon at a time shortly after their sojourn in India with Maharishi.

It rocks along with a decent pace with John playing lead guitar, not George Harrison. Although, I wouldn’t say it was by any means their best up-tempo song, as some have suggested. It is a song that is loaded with sayings and interpretations he had picked up in India. Most of the lyrics contained in the song were taken from Maharishi’s teachings.

More Confusion

Once again, a song shrouded by misinterpretations. Some have said, based on obscure statements by John, that the song is about the band’s disapproval of Yoko. That would be hard to imagine as he went to India with Cynthia, and the relationship with Yoko didn’t start until later.

Others say that it has references to John taking heroin, which he had started to experiment with at this time. It is more likely that the song was all about public perceptions, how you avoid them, and deal with them. Everybody’s got something to hide, don’t we?

The original was recorded at Kinfauns, George’s home, in 1968. It was an acoustic track that was much more relaxed than what finally appeared on the White album. Not the greatest song that came from the album. More an interesting step in the processes that were occurring within the band at the time.

Punish The Monkey by Mark Knopfler

The organ grinder was a street performer that was common in Europe in the 19th century. They were often portrayed as being people of ‘ill-repute’ or vagabonds. Probably some might have been, but certainly not all. 

The organ grinder would sometimes have a monkey, often a Capuchin monkey. The monkey held a tin can or similar to collect money for the performance from those watching. The monkey would have been trained to a certain extent to do this.

The Spread of the ‘Art’

Immigration meant that by the end of the 19th century, the practice had spread to North America and other places. Even as far as Mexico. 

Today you can still see them, minus the monkeys, in Holland and other places. An entertaining flashback to the past. Although, the barrel organs they play are much larger and exquisite works of art in the way they are built. 

Sometimes, you may find brass or other types of toy monkeys with them as a homage to their history.

A Social Statement

Mark Kopfler is known for being conscious of wrongdoing in the world. And often speaks and writes his songs about it. 

Mark was not from a poor family. But, he grew up in some areas for part of his life where there was deprivation and poverty. He would have seen it first hand, and his support for the ‘little man’ would have been encouraged by what he saw. That is what the song is all about.

There Are The Powerful, And Then There Are The Rest

In this memorable song about monkeys, his portrayal of the organ grinder and his monkey represents plenty we would recognize today.

Punishing the monkey is a great description of how it works. The organ grinder is the person with the power. The monkey is the ‘little man.’ His expression of “let the organ grinder go” tells us how the powerful get away with it, while the rest don’t.

Don’t We See That Today?

Isn’t it prevalent in the business world and even in government? People are set up to take the punishment for the crimes of ‘the leaders’. Those who pull the strings, often nameless, get away with it. And, as he sings, “Punish the monkey, and let the organ grinder go.” 

Monkey On My Back [Explicit] by Aerosmith

Now, we go to one of those songs about monkeys that uses the expression ‘monkey on my back’ to convey the feeling of something they can’t get rid of. In this case, addiction.

No Big Secret

The band’s singer Steven Tyler and the guitarist Joe Perry were known as the ‘Toxic twins.’ That was no big secret as their exploits with drugs and alcohol became more evident to all and sundry.

But, as with all those indulgences, there comes a time when a decision must be made. Clean up or pay the penalty, the latter of which can be quite final. Fortunately, they chose the former. This is a song about struggles with addiction.

The Results Were Worth The Struggle

The result of sorting themselves out a bit resulted in what could be referred to as a ‘comeback’ album. Pump was a big step back to form for them and included this track which documents their struggles.

I Go Ape by Neil Sedaka

From monkeys to apes, this is a track that goes back a long way. Back in 1958 and the time that rock n roll was becoming big news. I was very young when this came out, but I can remember my older sister hammering the life out of this song.

This was Sedaka’s second single. And, whilst it was relatively unsuccessful in America, it reached #9 in the UK. He was always a popular artist there.

A Bit of Jerry Lee

Neil Sedaka is an accomplished piano player, and on this, he kicks into ‘Jerry Lee’ mode with a bit of ‘boogie woogie.’ It is a novelty song about monkeys, as a lot of his releases were. They were designed to be chart records rather than musical masterpieces. 

It was only later that he started to write higher quality material like “Solitaire” and “Laughter In The Rain.” This song makes passing references to a range of primates, including chimpanzees, gorillas, and being a “monkey’s uncle.” 

He also references King Kong and plenty of coconuts and bananas. As I say, a novelty song. Serious musical statement? Not at all. Never mind, nothing wrong with a bit of fun.

Mickey’s Monkey by Smokey Robinson & The Miracles

An interesting take on our list of songs about and referencing monkeys. This refers to the dance “The Monkey.” Another novelty song in many ways, written by the ‘famed trio’ of Holland, Dozier, and Holland. 

From a singing group that prided themselves on the quality of what they recorded, this is a bit of a strange recording.

Let’s Dance

The purpose was to popularize the dance “The Monkey.” People in the late 50s and early 60s were into this ‘mass-dance’ craze. “The Monkey” was just another dance for everyone to learn. And, with the dance went the music.

The song tells the story of a “cat named Mickey from out of town.” The song goes on that he “spread his new dance all around.” For ‘The Monkey’, read ‘The Twist.’ Same idea, even if the dance was different.

Motown’s Top Group

Interestingly, at the time, Smokey Robinson & The Miracles were Motown’s top group. So, for them to be involved in something like this is interesting. Later on, in those successful Motown years, I would find it hard to imagine Diana Ross doing the same thing.

Another bit of fun, and as I say, there is nothing wrong with that. Although, perhaps it was a bit more than fun. It became one of their biggest selling records. Justification to a certain extent.

Monkey See, Monkey Do by Ringo Starr

You never quite know with Ringo whether he is being serious or poking fun at you. For years, he was always the guy at the back of The Beatles. John fronted the band and gave it just a little bit of a naughty boy image. Paul shook his hair and winked at the girls, and George was just quiet.

As time went on, we realized there was far more to Ringo than just sitting at the back. He wrote, with George, some nice songs like “Photograph” and usually had a mischievous side to what he said and did.

Tongue In Cheek Or Serious?

This song is a slightly tongue-in-cheek observation of human behavior. “Monkey See, Monkey Do” is a very old saying, possibly going back to the 1800s. It refers to people who learn things from other people by copying them. But, they don’t understand how or why it works.

This thought pattern can be extended to say people copy other people without having any regard for the consequences.

Monkeys May Have Taken Offense

Perhaps the monkeys were not happy with the terminology. In the film “The Planet of the Apes,” the expression was inverted a little. The monkeys say, “Human see, Human do.” Touche.

Monkey Man by Amy Winehouse

Could you ever imagine Amy Winehouse singing Ska? I found it hard to visualize myself, but here it is. I am not sure why she would include it in a live set or record it. But, whatever the reason, she did.

It is a cover of a song from Toots and The Maytals. It wasn’t a particularly big success with them and wasn’t here either. All we can say is that she brings something new to the song. And, given the range of genres she liked to include, perhaps we should not be too surprised.

Sell My Monkey by B.B. King

Moving towards the end of my list of songs about monkeys now, we have covered a range of styles and interpretations. One thing we haven’t included, though, is a bit of blues. Where better to go than BB King?

A typical BB King performance with some great guitar kicks and a shuffling blues rhythm. Someone once said to me about playing the blues, “It can often be the notes you don’t play that are the best ones.” BB King personifies that. 

He can play a few quick licks and notes, but he knows when to back away. He is undoubtedly one of the blues greats.

She Wants To Sell His Monkey

The song is about a man and a woman falling out because she wants to sell his monkey. It used to be hers, but she gave it to him. Now, she wants to sell it, although she doesn’t specify why.

In many ways, the words are irrelevant. The showcase is the guitar. This track is recorded using his ‘Lucille.’ The 335 Gibson was designed and made for him that didn’t have the standard ‘f-hole’. He is also known to have played an ES125 Gibson and a Fender Telecaster.

Certainly, one to include here.

Theme From “King Kong” (Pt. II) by The Love Unlimited Orchestra

Finally, a song from the film. The Love Unlimited Orchestra was formed by Barry White and was over 40 pieces strong. Perhaps the title “orchestra” might be giving the wrong impression. Barry White is the clue. 

This is a funky brass-blowing setup that sounds like Blood Sweat and Tears times two. A great arrangement and sound. A million miles away from the soundtrack of the film, this was a different way to finish this list about our primate friends.

Looking for Songs with Interesting Subjects?

We can help with that. Take a look at our detailed articles on the Best Songs About Ice Cream, the Best Songs about Friday, the Best Songs About Magic, the Best Songs About Dreams, the Best Songs About Clouds, and the Best Songs About Heroes for more great song selections.

You’ll need to hear those songs. So, check out our in-depth reviews of the Best Headphones for Music, the Best Headphones Under $200, the Most Comfortable Headphones, the Best Wireless Bluetooth Headphones, and the Best Headphones with Volume Control you can buy in 2023.

And, don’t miss our comprehensive reviews of the Best True Wireless Earbuds, the Best iPhone Earbuds, the Best Sound Quality Earbuds, the Most Comfortable Earbuds, and the Best Bass Earbuds currently on the market.

Songs About Monkeys – Conclusion

So, here we are. Plenty of songs talking about monkeys. They cover a range of styles but assure us of one thing. You can write great music about any subject that you want to, if you really want to.

Until next time, let the music play. Now… pass me a banana.

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About Warren Barrett

Warren has spent nearly half a century (now that's a long time!) as an ink-stained wretch writing for music magazines and websites and has no plans on giving up soon.

He is curious about all types of music and instruments apart from any genre with 'Urban' in the title. He's also not so keen on Plastic Potted Plants, Reality TV, and any movies with Kevin Costner in them.

He lives in Delaware with his wife Wendy and lots of great memories...

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