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“The Bear Necessities” is quite likely the most recognizable song from this film, and certainly one of the most famous Disney songs of all time. We’ve actually gone backwards in the story, as this song precedes “I Wanna be like You” (which was covered yesterday).
Mowgli, determined to NOT go to the “Man village” has run off from Bagheera the panther, and while sulking in the jungle, hears a strange creature approaching….only instead of the dangerous tiger Shere Khan, it turns out to be only Baloo the bear, brought to life by the one and only Phil Harris (working most of his career in radio, this was his first turn at voice acting, he would also be Thomas O’Malley in The Aristocats (1970), Little John in Robin Hood (1973) and finally Patou the dog in Rock-a-Doodle (1991, his final role).
After teasing Mowgli for a while (even engaging in a mock sparring fight), Baloo decides that he really likes Mowgli (or “l’il britches”, as he calls him), and decides that he’ll raise him as a bear in the jungle (ignoring/dismissing Bagheera’s objections to this turn of events).
To that end, “The Bear Necessities” consists of Baloo teaching Mowgli how bears, like himself, live in the jungle, which is to say, they don’t really work, they just eat whatever is around them, because the jungle provides food EVERYWHERE! If you understand this, then you get “the bear necessities of life.”
A running gag throughout the first part of the song involves Mowgli attempting to emulate Baloo in gathering food, but failing miserably every time (can’t break a coconut with his head, sticks his finger on a prickly pear, almost gets crushed by a rock AND gets buried in an avalanche of bananas).
The Sherman brothers (who wrote all the songs in this film, amongst many other Disney films) wanted the music of The Jungle Book to have a “big band era” feel to it, so the music is full of swinging trumpets, saxophones and other jazzy instruments. This song in particular, always makes me want to get up and dance, no matter how tired I feel, and that’s a good type of song.
I hope you enjoyed this look at “The Bear Necessities.” I’ve been trying really hard to get back into the swing of this blog after spring break, so I beg pardon if things seem not as good as before. Tomorrow (or Friday, depending on my schedule) will see a look at another classic song, “That’s What Friends Are For” aka “The Vulture Song” (I LOVE those vultures!!)
P.S. If you’re interested, I found a neat clip of Phil Harris on The Ed Sullivan Show singing a three song medley (sadly “The Bear Necessities” was not one of them), but it gives you a look at him singing in person. Enjoy!
*all images are the property of Walt Disney Studios
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