|Single by The Coasters|
|B-side||"Three Cool Cats"|
|Recorded||December 11, 1958|
|Genre||Doo-wop, pop, R&B|
|Songwriter(s)||Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller|
|Producer(s)||Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller|
|The Coasters singles chronology|
"Charlie Brown" is a popular Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller song that was a top-ten hit for The Coasters in the spring of 1959 (released in January, coupled with "Three Cool Cats," Atco 6132). It went to No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart, while "Venus" by Frankie Avalon was at No. 1. It was the first of three top-ten hits for the Coasters that year. It is best known for the phrase, "Why's everybody always pickin' on me?"
According to Jerry Leiber, "After 'Yakety Yak,' I thought we could write every Coasters song in ten minutes. Man, was I wrong! When we tried to write a follow-up, Mike had lots of musical ideas, but I was stuck. … After nearly a week of agonizing, a simple name came to mind. 'Charlie Brown.' Then, 'He's a clown, that Charlie Brown.' Mike already had a skip-along melodic template in place. He helped me with the story and suddenly a character, played by Dub Jones, stepped out on stage."
Towards the end of the bridge of the song, the words "Yeah, You!" were recorded at half speed, so the voices would play back at a higher pitch. King Curtis plays the tenor saxophone during the instrumental and the fade out of the record.
The best-known version is in mono. However, a stereo rendering (with slightly different vocals) was released on the LP Atlantic History of Rhythm & Blues, Vol. 4, along with several other rare stereo versions of late 1950s Atlantic hits.
- Mike Stoller, piano
- King Curtis, saxophone
- Adolph Jacobs, Don Arnone, guitars
- Milt Hinton, bass
- Belton Evans, drums
There have been over 80 cover versions of the song recorded, including one by British comedy actor Bernard Bresslaw and a German language version (as "Charly Brown") by Hans Blum, both in 1959. Deep River Boys with Mikkel Flagstad's orchestra recorded their spin in Oslo on August 25, 1960; it was released on the extended play En aften på "Casino Non Stop" 1960 (HMV 7EGN 36). Dr. Lonnie Smith does an extended instrumental on his live 1969 album Move Your Hand. Guy Mitchell put out a cover, and in 1995 Voodoo Glow Skulls did a ska-punk version on their album Firme.
The lyric "Who calls the English teacher 'Daddy-o'?" is most likely a reference to the 1955 film Blackboard Jungle, in which high school students mock the surname of a new teacher, Richard Dadier (Glenn Ford), changing "Dadier" to "Daddy-o," a then-current slang term (usually genial) for a male friend or a father.
The song is not a reference to the Peanuts character of the same name. The strip had debuted less than a decade prior and had not yet reached its peak of popularity. Adding to the confusion is the line "Why's everybody always pickin' on me?", reflecting the comic strip Charlie Brown's generally pessimistic attitude.
In pop culture
In a 1979 episode of The White Shadow, the Carver basketball team performs this song at a school dance.
In the film Jack, the title character (played by Robin Williams) and his friends, including his teacher (played by Bill Cosby), sing it in their tree house. The weight in the tree house is so great with the kids and the two adult-sized people that it begins to creak. While they are singing, a butterfly lands on the tree house and it collapses. Once they are on the ground, Jack uses the tag line of the song and says, "Why is everybody always fallin' on me?"
The song was included in the musical revue Smokey Joe's Cafe.
- Gilliland, John (1969). "Show 13 - Big Rock Candy Mountain: Rock 'n' roll in the late fifties. [Part 3]" (audio). Pop Chronicles. University of North Texas Libraries.
- Billboard Hits of 1959 Retrieved February 7, 2012
- "Top 100 Songs - Billboard Hot 100 Chart". Billboard. Retrieved 16 December 2018.
- Leiber and Mike Stoller with David Ritz, Jerry (2009). Hound Dog: The Leiber & Stoller Autobiography. Simon & Schuster. pp. 136–137. ISBN 978-1-4165-5938-2.
- The Coasters: The Complete Singles As & Bs 1954-62, Acrobat Licensing LTD., ADDCCD3180, 2016, UK
- The Ultimate History of Rock & Roll Collection, Vol. 1: Rock's Pioneers Retrieved February 7, 2012
- Voodoo Glow Skulls, Firme Retrieved February 7, 2012
- "You're a Misinterpreted Song, Charlie Brown!". Lyric Interpretations. Retrieved 2020-08-30.