Published on July 19, 2016
“I Wan’na Be like You”
is a song from Walt Disney’s 1967 film The Jungle Book. The song was written by songwriters Robert and Richard Sherman and was performed by Louis Prima.
Richard Sherman said he and his brother aimed for a jazz sound, with a Dixieland-like melody. He added that “When we first got an idea for ‘I Wan’na Be Like You,’ we said an ape swings from a tree, and he’s the king of apes. We’ll make him ‘the king of the swingers.’ That’s the idea, we’ll make him a jazz man.” Once Prima was invited to do the song, he mockingly responded the Shermans with “You want to make a monkey out of me? You got me!” The instrumentals were originally recorded by Prima—who also played the trumpet—and his band, Sam Butera & The Witnesses, but the music was replaced by one written by the film’s composer, George Bruns, and orchestrated by Walter Sheets. The “scat dialogue” between Baloo and King Louie was the result of two recording sessions. Louis Prima recorded first, with the intent that Baloo—played in his recording by Butera—would simply repeat what Louie scatted, but Phil Harris decided not to imitate Prima’s recording and made up his own. The song was released the same date as the motion picture itself.