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"The Lambeth Walk" is a song from the 1937 musical Me and My Girl (with book and lyrics by Douglas Furber and L. Arthur Rose and music by Noel Gay). The song takes its name from a local street Lambeth Walk once notable for its street market and working class culture in Lambeth, an area of London.
The tune gave its name to a Cockney dance first made popular in 1937 by Lupino Lane. The story line of Me and My Girl concerns a Cockney barrow boy who inherits an earldom but almost loses his Lambeth girlfriend. It was turned into a 1939 film The Lambeth Walk which starred Lane.
The choreography from the musical, in which the song was a show-stopping Cockney-inspired extravaganza, inspired a popular walking dance, done in a jaunty strutting style. The craze reached Buckingham Palace, with King George VI and Queen Elizabeth attending a performance and joining in the shouted "Oi" which ends the chorus.
The fad reached the United States in 1938, popularized by Boston-based orchestra-leader Joseph (Joe) Rines, among others. Rines and his band frequently performed in New York, and the dance became especially popular at the "better" night clubs. As with most dance crazes, other well-known orchestras did versions of the song, including Duke Ellington. It was also heard on radio.
A member of the Nazi Party drew attention in 1939 by declaring the Lambeth Walk (which was becoming popular in Berlin) to be "Jewish mischief and animalistic hopping" as part of a speech on how the "revolution of private life" was one of the next big tasks of National Socialism in Germany.
In 1942, Charles A. Ridley of the British Ministry of Information made a short propaganda film, Lambeth Walk - Nazi Style, which edited existing footage of Hitler and German soldiers (taken from Leni Riefenstahl's Triumph of the Will) to make it appear they were marching and dancing to "The Lambeth Walk". The film so enraged Joseph Goebbels that reportedly he ran out of the screening room kicking chairs and screaming profanities. The propaganda film was distributed uncredited to newsreel companies, who would supply their own narration.
Both Russ Morgan and Duke Ellington had hit records of the song in the United States.
The chorus lines are:
The composer Franz Reizenstein wrote a set of Variations on the Lambeth Walk with each variation being a pastiche of the style of a major classical composer. Notable are the variations in the style of Beethoven, Chopin and Liszt.