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Artist: Steve Miller Band
Album: The Joker (Capitol)
Steve Miller’s lyric on The Joker, the pompatus of love, really stands out. I’ve already explained where he got that from. No, it was not original to him. Many people, including myself, also love the line from The Joker, “You’re the cutest thing I ever did see. I really love your peaches, wanna shake your tree.” It’s evocative; it’s a bit sexual. It’s also not original. Steve Miller was a big borrower of lyrics and, I’ve heard this line in a number of old blues or R&B songs that I couldn’t even remember so I had to go on a search. But, it stands out in one tune from 1954, Lovey Dovey by the Clovers. The title comes from the lyrics ‘lovey dovey all the time,’ which Miller also used in The Joker.
Lovey Dovey by The Clovers
Well, you’re the cutest thing that I did ever see. I really love your peaches wanna shake your tree, is the first lyric in Lovey Dovey by the Clovers. Steve Miller seems to have lifted the line straight from this tune. Still, it appears to have been a recurring trope. Those lyrics, tame by today’s standards, were raunchy enough that Clyde McPhatter saw fit to change them when he re-recorded the song, using “I really love you, baby, won’t you come with me.”
If You Don’t Want My Peaches by Irving Berlin
However, we can go all the way back to 1914 for something similar and even more obvious, as it’s in the title of the song. Irving Berlin’s song If You Don’t Want My Peaches contains the lyrics “If you don’t want my peaches, then stop shaking my tree.” The song was never published during Berlin’s lifetime. It was later included on a posthumous CD and sung by Berlin’s granddaughter, Mary Ellin Lerner.
Peach Orchard Mama by Blind Lemon Jefferson
Blind Lemon Jefferson’s song, Peach Orchard Mama, from 1929, also calls on the image of a peach tree and its fruit:
Peach orchard mama, you swore nobody’d pick your fruit
I found three kid-men : shaking down your peaches tree
One man bought your groceries : another joker paid your rent
While I work in your orchard : and giving you every cent
Notice the joker? Hmmm….
Lovey Dovey by Otis and Carla
Although Miller may have been influenced by many works, the clearest influence is seen from Lovey Dovey. It may not have been The Clover’s rendition, however, Otis and Carla also recorded a version of the song in 1956. Otis and Carla were Otis Redding and Carla Thomas. They also recorded a version of The Tramp in which Carla criticizes Otis because he’s from the back-woods, doesn’t have fancy clothes, and needs a haircut. To which he continually responds, “but I’m a lover.” I can’t help thinking that this recalls much of the theme of The Joker, where the singer is being criticized but responds, in so many words, by saying, ‘but I’m a lover.’
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