Song Spotlight: “Calcutta”

Song Spotlight: "Calcutta" |
  • Mood: Relaxed
  • Theme: Dance Music
  • Tempo: Moderate, Relaxed
  • Genre/Style: Easy listening

Here’s an easy listening song that hit #1 on the charts even as rock and roll was dominating the music industry. Yes, while Motown was cranking out hits, Lawrence Welk was holding his own, with his light and bubbly arrangements of popular tunes.

Lawrence Welk became famous for this self-titled “Champagne Music” starting in the 1930s, first on his radio show and later on his television program, The Lawrence Welk Show. But Welk was not just the band leader for a nationally successful show. He also found time to have success in the music recording industry as well, keeping his light and airy style in most of his instrumental recordings, even as rock and roll gained popularity in the 50s and 60s.

Welk often performed arranged versions of popular tunes on accordion accompanied by his orchestra. “Calcutta” was one of these – a pop song from Germany originally titled “Tivoli Melody” and composed by Heino Gaze. This song was renamed many times, and a version containing German lyrics, titled, “Kalkutta liegt am Ganges” was number one on the Germany Billboard chart in 1960.

Welk was reluctant to record the song at first until a colleague persuaded him to do so. He released the song in 1961, when rock and roll was dominating the charts, but still, when “Calcutta” was released, it topped the U.S. pop chart, pushing the Shirelles song, “Will You Love Me Tomorrow” from its number one position and blocking the Miracles from getting their first number one hit. With over one million copies of the song sold, it was a winner.

Try This:

“Calcutta” fits well in a collection of songs with danceable tempos. It can be used as a transition into a discussion of preferred leisure activities, an opportunity for visual engagement with videos from The Lawrence Welk Show, and more!

Theme – Dance Music This song would fit well into a Dance Music theme to promote movement and fun. Encourage the group to share/discuss their favorite leisure activities like dancing, playing instruments, or games they enjoy. Other complementary songs may include “Beer Barrel Polka”, “The Twist” and, “Music, Music, Music.” OR find songs related to your group’s specific heritages.

Watch a Video Clip: Watch a a video clip of The Lawrence Welk Show, enjoying the dancers on stage.

Listen to the Other Versions: Play the recording of the German version with lyrics and then listen to Lawrence Welk’s version. Ask the group for their opinions.

Movement: Try out seated dancing along with this instrumental version of the song.

What is your favorite dance music? What other Lawrence Welk songs do you enjoy? Please leave your comments below!

1 Comment

  1. Beatle Bob on July 17, 2021 at 5:29 am

    How this cheesy parody of elevator music kept the Miracles’ far superior pop masterpiece “Shop Around” is mystifying

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