Hasslehoff Go Under Limbo Stick

Monday, July 30th, 2007

Lately I’ve had the Limbo Rock song in my head. I think they were playing it on the radio, which is kind of weird. I never thought of it as a song that could stand alone, you know, without an actual limbo, but it’s got a lot of things I like in songs: hand claps, whistling, and Chubby Checker doing a bad accent.

I do take issue with one line, however: “Jack be limble Jack be quick/ Jack go under limbo stick.” The word “limbo” is used about 25 times per second. I think we get the point. The song is about the limbo. Was it really necessary to mutate “nimble” into “limble?” Bruce Willis doesn’t think so.

Meanwhile, it looks like David Hasselhoff was (at some point in his career) out to dislodge Chubby Checker’s monopoly on limbo accompaniment. Is there anything The Hoff can’t ruin?


I thank you in advance for the nightmares.

~ Innis      

The original title of “Limbo Rock” was “Monotonous Melody” and it was written in five minutes.

Thank you mysterious trivia man! (Click on the username in the above comment to read the whole awesome story.)

~ evanjacover      

I’m pretty sure that Chubby Checker did not change “nimble” to “limble” — since that’s not even a word. I always thought he was saying “Jack be limber” — which would certainly fit with doing the limbo dance. But more likely he was saying “limbo” instead. That’s how most of the music lyrics websites seem to have it; although they’re not always reliable, of course.

The limbo dance supposedly had its traditional origins in a funeral dance. It was connected with the Afro-Caribbean god Legba, who is also known as Elegba and Ellegua, and sometimes synchretized with Exu/Eshu. Legba is the god of death and the crossroads, a god of magic, journeys, and the portal between life and death; he is also a psychopomp. He is usually the first god invoked in Voodoo or Candomble or other Afro-Caribbean religions, because he is also the messenger between the realm of deities and the realm of mortals. Similar in various ways to the Greek deity Hermes and/or the Roman Mercury. That connection with Legba and funerals might mean that there’s some connection with the limbo dance to the idea of limbo as an in-between place after death, neither heaven nor hell. (Similar to purgatory in the Catholic church, I guess.) In some modern versions of the dance, they soak the stick in fuel and light it, so it’s on fire as people try to dance under it. Definitely not something to try at home.

By the way, that Hasselhoff thing is a hoot. I’m not a hater, but I have to admit that he seems quite phony there. Nothing like a smirking white dude to help “enrich” the Jamaican cultural heritage.

Wow, Dee, thanks for the info! That’s some wild stuff. But I still think Chubby Checker is saying “limble.” I listened to the song a lot to make sure I wasn’t mis-hearing it.

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