“Who Did Put the Bop in the Bop Shoo Bop Shoo Bop?” by Wesley McCann

Oct 5th, 2022 | By | Category: Nonfiction, Prose

Amongst the myriad of questions posed by the great minds of history, many have been answered satisfactorily, and many others pursued to an incomplete end. Yet it is the rare question that is posed in the public square but never followed up at all. And today we re-ask just such a question, a problem that concerned men in a former era, yet which seems to have passed out of the consciousness of the generations since. Asked mid-century man perceptively: “Who put the bop in the bop shoo bop shoo bop?”

Who, indeed?

“Who put the bop in the bop shoo bop shoo bop
Who put the ram in the ramalama-dingdong?
Who was that man? I’d like to shake his hand!
He made my baby fall in love with me!”

To begin with, in the very asking of the question we see intention: “Who put the bop…?” We see here meaningful creation, an act of will, the placing of one term alongside another for maximum rhetorical effect. Consider the skill involved in the selection of the elements of this phrase, and how any alteration would have diminished the forcefulness of the thought: mop shoo mop shoo mop just doesn’t work. Gop shoo gop shoo gop is dreadful. Zop shoo zop shoo zop sounds like an alien laser beam rather than a sock-hopping pop ditty. The brilliance of bop shoo bop shoo bop is thus made clear by contrasting it with its antitheses, and the genius of the man who “put the bop” in that phrase is heightened in our eyes. Indeed, I’d like to shake his hand!

But one must take the issue a step further, and ask why the singer is discussing bop shoo bop in the first place. What was bop shoo bop to him? We understand that the inventor of the term “made my baby fall in love with me,” and the importance of the phrase therefore lies in the desired effect. Could he have respected a man whose rhythmic articulations had not made his baby fall in love with him? Impossible! No one would have respected the man who wrote mop shoo mop shoo mop, for no woman would have fallen for it.

The songwriter then continues his etymological quest by next posing the query, “Who put the ram in the rama lama ding dong?” The careful listener’s mind is immediately drawn to the ancient Indian document the Ramayana, whose protagonist Rama lends his name to the title, and who could indeed by the Ram in the Ramalama ding dong. Ding dong is a reference to a doorbell, tastelessly unsubtle, but understandable given the needs of the meter in the chorus. “Call at the house of Ram,” it says to us, “via the Ramayana.” And as we read the ancient epic, we indeed find the very house of which this chorus is a mere metaphor, a simple hovel in the forest to which the great Rama has been unjustly banished. It is here, in the quiet depth of the wood, that contemplation is possible, and the great questions can be pondered and put to rest. This interpretation is confirmed when we hear, “Who was that man?” There is no equivocation; the object is masculine. This leads us once again to Rama.

But a tour of the Ramayana brings us to a starting conclusion: there is no reference to bop shoo bop there at all! What can the meaning of this be, that the singer would direct our attention to a work that contains no answer? We see Rama, the archetype of a man, without answer, and we understand thereby that he is given as a mere metaphor. He is a signpost, pointing to a deeper reality. Not an archetype do we seek, but rather—man himself! It is as the riddle of the sphinx (“Four legs in the morning, two legs at noon, three legs in the evening”), which was solved by answering, “Man.”

In the end, then, we have all put the bop in the bop shoo bop shoo bop, and the singer’s inquiry is a perceptive self-reference signifying that it was he himself, and no other, that “made my baby fall in love with me.” The singer’s passionate cry, then, that “I’d like to shake his hand,” is the self-respect borne of his consciousness of the act that he himself has performed, and leaves the understanding listener with a mind-numbing paradox akin to the Buddhist ko’an, “What is the sound of one hand clapping?” Indeed, how can a man shake his own hand? He cannot, and logic bursts in the brain amidst the contemplation of an impossible act, leaving the enlightened contemplative without meaningful words to express the newfound reality, but only mindless drivel; “bop shoo bop shoo bop” says the untethered mouth, as logic leaks out the ear.

This must be frighteningly attractive to the opposite sex, as it “made my baby fall in love with me.”

This answer is further strengthened when we inquire into the songwriter himself. For a question of this kind could have been posed by a Johnson or a Jeffries or a Milton, or any other name that would lead us in neither this direction nor that. But no! The songwriter chose his subject and his meaning well. For the insightful lyrics were written by none other than…Barry Mann!

And so the answer to the question, “Who put the bop in the bop shoo bop shoo bop?” is that mankind has put the bop in the bop shoo bop shoo bop. “Who was that man?” I am that man. And I’d like to shake my own hand.

Bop shoo bop shoo bop…


Wesley McCann is a writer from New York. This is both true and untrue at the same time. His first published work—a poem—was not intended for publication. His first intended publication—an article—was not published. If you want more information about him, try to befriend him at a function.

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