Shake a Tail Feather

P. Diddy, Nelly, and Murphy Lee may have hit the top 20 with ”Shake Ya Tailfeather” from the Bad Boys II soundtrack, but they aren’t the first to command listeners to get ducky on the dance floor. Original R&B bad boy Andre Williams (who was banned from the airwaves in 1957 for writing ”Jail Bait,” about underage girls) cowrote ”Shake a Tail Feather” for the Five Du-Tones in 1963. Since then, it’s been recorded by everyone from Tejano singer David Olivarez to bluesman Taj Mahal (a kids’ version). Herewith, highlights from the tale of the ”Tailfeather.”

THE FIVE DU-TONES (1963) The rump-shaking prototype reached only No. 51 on the pop chart upon its release but resurfaced in 1988 on the Hairspray soundtrack.

JAMES & BOBBY PURIFY (1967) This sublime, simple take fared better than the original, climbing to No. 25 on the charts and helping turn the song into a soul standard.

IKE & TINA TURNER (1967) A skittering shimmy with a new call-and-response element.

RAY CHARLES AND THE BLUES BROTHERS (1980) Charles’ heavenly voice adds a fire that even Belushi and Aykroyd’s antics can’t extinguish. Blame this one for vaulting the song into the frat-rock pantheon.

HANSON (1998) They again prove their dedication to classic soul with this faithful, if sanitized (the ”bend over” refrain is downplayed), rendition for their Live From Albertane.

NELLY, P. DIDDY, AND MURPHY LEE (2003) The words shake and tailfeather are pretty much all it has in common with the Du-Tones’. Still, it’s meant to put booties in motion, and that’s what matters. Andre would be proud.

Shake a Tail Feather
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