5 Songs of Rum & Coke, from The Andrews Sisters to R. Kelly, but Not Really Gloria Estefan
Pitbull and Kesha topped the Billboard Hot 100 during 2013 with "Timber," a single dedicated to drinking and carrying on accordingly. They were obviously not the first act to top the charts with a song about alcohol. In fact, 70 years ago on this day was when the Andrews Sisters dropped "Rum and Coca-Cola," the group's sixth no. 1 hit. Pitbull may not have specifically mentioned rum during "Timber" but you know that as a proud Cuban, he's got to appreciate the sentiments of the Andrews clan. Here are five songs that make the combination of rum and cola a hit.
"Rum and Coca-Cola" by The Andrews Sisters (1945)
Naturally, a song about rum-and-coke didn't originate with a trio of sisters from Minnesota. Now, the original version of "Rum and Coca-Cola" was composed by calypso performers Lord Invader (an incredible alias) and Lionel Belasco, both of whom hailed from Trinidad. It took an American act to make it a hit however. The Andrews Sisters borrowed the track from vocalist and actor Morey Amsterdam and turned it gold, releasing a single that would stay at the top of the Billboard Pop Singles chart for ten weeks. After Lord Invader pushed to have his name put back on the songwriting credits, it became obvious that American recording artists had totally missed references to prostitution in the lyrics: The American G.I.s mentioned in the single aren't just consorting with the local ladies for regular, church-friendly romantic rendezvous. The song was banned from the radio in some spots...because it referenced alcohol. Not the prostitution thing.
"Rum & Coke" by Kreyshawn (2011)
Nearly 70 years after the Andrews Sisters released its hit single, many things have changed, including lingo and the way in which white women appropriate music from minorities. We refer to Kreyshawn, who released a song titled "Rum & Coke" prior to her 2012 debut album. The emcee refers to Coca-Cola by its more informal title "coke" now, and she's also added a whole lot more variety to the range of drugs the kids are employing these days. Aside from alcohol, Krey also acknowledges popping vicodin and whatever the "magic pills" she refers to are, as well as smoking pot ("purple smoke"). If you've heard "Gucci Gucci"...just leave it at that and ignore the rest of her discography. Follow the link if you're truly hellbent to hear this track.
"Cuba Libre" by Gloria Estefan (1998)
"Ah," many of you more cultured readers may have stated when we referenced the Cuban connection to rum-and-cokes earlier. "No self-righteous Cuban would call it a 'rum and coke.' They would call it a Cuba Libre!" And you would be correct. Bacardi, a spirits company of Cuban origin, is the largest supplier of rum in the world and has implied via television commercial that its product was used in the original Cuba libre. Gloria Estefan, another Cuban national working in popular music out of Miami, released "Cuba Libre," a single with both English and Spanish-language versions. Of course, you cultured readers also know that it wasn't an alcohol reference at all: "Cuba Libre" translates to "Free Cuba," making it a political statement as well as a delicious beverage.
"Cuba Cuba Libre" by Ace of Base (2011)
As we've already just how uncultured we are, we figured we'd throw out a song titled "Cuba Libre" from someone a little less familiar with Cuban culture than Gloria Estefan. Ace of Base, the Swedish pop icons, seems like a good fit. The quartet began releasing unreleased tracks and demos during 2011 as part of its "Ace Thursday" series, one of which was a previously unheard track titled "Cuba Cuba Libre." We can tell from the lyrics that Ace at least had the alcoholic beverage partially in mind when it wrote the song, sining lines such as "that's still the one / Where coca cola and coke / Have arrived for consumers." Hm. In retrospect, it seems it might be a call for corporate interests, such as Coke to come to Cuba. If so, they may have gotten their wish this year. Lyrics such as "it's so happy and poor" seem a little callous however.
"Ignition (Remix)" by R. Kelly (2003)
R. Kelly has dropped a number of memorable lines over his career—from being trapped in a closet to believing he can fly—but one of his best has to be "it's the freakin' weekend baby / I'm about to have me some fun" from the remix to "Ignition." Let's go back and investigate how R. Kelly got to that position, both lyrically and literally. What is the R&B star sipping and bringing out the freak featured during the rest of the song? Coke and rum. Normally branding reps at multinationals such as Coca-Cola don't try to affiliate themselves with tracks that feature lyrics such as "'bout to take my key and stick it in the ignition," but you know the folks at the beverage magnate in Atlanta smirked and nodded every time this hit came on the radio during 2003.