“Java Jive” is a high-spirited ode to coffee in which the singer enthusiastically professes his love for “java” (and tea too, but it’s really about coffee). The love is mutual: “I love coffee, I love tea / I love the java jive and it loves me.” And it’s not just the coffee he loves: he also loves coffee’s “jive” — meaning foolish, playful talk in the jazz slang of the era, as well as a popular style of 1930s big band jazz.
The song lyrics themselves are a great example of the jive — lots of silly rhymes, including “Oh, slip me a slug from the wonderful mug / I’ll cut a rug till I’m snug in a jug,” and everyone’s favorite, “I love java, sweet and hot / Whoops, Mr. Moto, I’m a coffee pot.”
When the Ink Spots recorded the song in 1940, audiences knew that “Mr. Moto” was the Japanese detective played by Peter Lorre in eight movies released in 1937-1939. Likewise, everyone knew that “cutting a rug” was slang for dancing, popularized in the 1920s and still current when “Java Jive” was released.
Written by Ben Oakland (music) and Milton Drake (lyrics), “Java Jive” reached No. 15 on Billboard’s Hot 100. The Ink Spots performed it for years, and there have been numerous other recordings by other artists, including The Manhattan Transfer’s popular 1975 version.
Even more than 60 years after its debut, “Java Jive” will still bring a smile to a coffee lover’s lips.
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