Written and first recorded (as “Jock-a-mo”) by Sugar Boy & His Cane Cutters (1953).
Hit versions by The Dixie Cups (US #20 1965), Dr. John (US #71 1972), The Neville Brothers (1981), Natasha (UK #10 1982), Belle Stars (UK #35 1982 |US #14 1989), BeauSoleil (1989).
From the wiki: “The song, under the original title ‘Jock-A-Mo’, was written and released as a single in 1953 by James Crawford as ‘Sugar Boy & His Cane Cutters’ that failed to make the charts. The song that tells of a parade collision between two ‘tribes’ of Mardi Gras Indians and the traditional confrontation of a ‘spy boy’ (i.e. a lookout for one band of Indians) encountering the ‘flag boy’ or guidon carrier for another ‘tribe.’ He threatens to ‘set the flag on fire.’ Crawford set phrases chanted by Mardi Gras Indians* to music for the song but himself states that he had no idea what the words meant, and that he originally sang the phrase ‘Chock-a-mo’. But, the title was misheard by Chess Records president Leonard Chess, who misspelled it on the label as ‘Jock-a-mo’ for the record’s release.
“The Dixie Cups, who had learned ‘Iko, Iko’ from hearing their grandmother sing it, also knew little about the origin of the song and so the original authorship credit went to the members, Barbara Ann Hawkins, her sister Rosa Lee Hawkins, and their cousin Joan Marie Johnson. they and their record label, Red Bird Records, were sued by James Crawford, who claimed that ‘Iko Iko’ was the same as his composition ‘Jock-a-mo.’ Although The Dixie Cups denied that the two compositions were similar, the lawsuit resulted in a settlement in 1967 with Crawford making no claim to authorship or ownership of ‘Iko Iko’, but being credited 25% for public performances. Crawford’s rationale for the settlement was motivated by years of legal battles with no royalties. In the end, he stated, ‘I don’t even know if I really am getting my just dues. I just figure 50 percent of something is better than 100 percent of nothing.’
“In the 1990s, the Dixie Cups became aware that another group of people were claiming authorship of ‘Iko Iko.’ Their ex-manager Joe Jones and his family filed a copyright registration in 1991, alleging that they wrote the song in 1963. Joe Jones successfully licensed ‘Iko Iko’ outside of North America, and it was used as the soundtrack of Mission Impossible 2 in 2000. The Dixie Cups filed a lawsuit against Joe Jones. The jury returned a unanimous verdict on March 6, 2002, affirming that the Dixie Cups were the only writers of ‘Iko Iko’.
“New Orleans singer and pianist Dr. John covered ‘Iko Iko’ in 1972 for his fifth studio album Dr. John’s Gumbo, produced by Jerry Wexler and Harold Battiste, that charted on the Billboard Hot 100. The most successful charting version in the UK was recorded by Scottish singer Natasha England, credited simply as Natasha, that peaked in the UK Singles Top-10 in 1982. The British all-female group The Belle Stars also recorded the song in 1982. Released at the same time as Natasha’s version, it peaked at #35. However, in 1989, the Belle Stars’ version became a US Top 20 hit after it was included on the soundtrack of the 1988 film Rain Man.”
The Dixie Cups, “Iko Iko” (1965):
Dr. John, “Iko Iko” (1972):
The Neville Brothers, “Brother John/Iko Iko” (1981):
Natasha, “Iko Iko” (1982):
Belle Stars, “Iko Iko” (1982):
Beausoleil, “Not Fade Away/Bo Diddley/Iko Iko” (1989):