Most of us had no idea what a “mambo” (honestly, many still don’t know) was before German singer Lou Bega’s “Mambo No. 5 ( A Little Bit Of…)” hit the airwaves in 1999.
The catchy song was played on every radio station, and at every middle school dance and wedding you attended at the time. If you were named Monica, Erica, Rita, Tina, Sandra, Mary, or Jessica, you loved the song even more than everyone else because your name was a part of the lyrics.
When the music video for the single finally came out, it was made clear that the mambo was a type of dance. But we we still had a LOT of other questions for Bega, like what happened to the first four mambos? Who are all the girls he sings about? And what do all the girls named in the song have to do with dancing the mambo?
Our questions went unanswered for years, so we finally did some digging, and ladies and gentlemen, we finally have a better understanding of what the lyrics are about.
Bega, who whose real name is David Lubega, actually briefly talked about what the meaning behind the song in two separate interviews, and it isn’t exactly all about dancing the mambo.
At the time of the song’s release, Bega told MTV that the “No.5” in the song’s title represented the five continents.
“So it’s for example, No. 1 in Africa, South Africa, and all over Africa, so that means these people like it as well as people in Europe and Americans are liking it to,” he said.
However, that was a little bit of a stretch because Bega’s “Mambo No.5” is not exactly an original song.
While the lyrics were written by Bega himself, the melody was a sample of a song created by Cuban-Mexican artist Perez Prado, famously known as the “King of the Mambo.” Prado recorded a series of mambos throughout his career, and instead of giving them a new name each time, he would just number them. Turns out, “Mambo No. 5” was one of a series of eight.
So for those among us who have been wondering what happened to the first four, they’re definitely still out there somewhere.
Bega was initially asked to write a song using Prado’s instrumental for a film, but in the end the song didn’t make the final cut. Instead, it took on a new life as an international chart-topping pop hit.
“When I wrote the song, I believed it could be the thing it is today,” Bega said on VH1’s Greatest One Hit Wonders. “All people hate it completely, that’s what I thought. I knew it wouldn’t swim in the middle because it was too different from all the stuff that was outside, so I’m quite happy with it. Mambo makes you happy, Latin music makes you happy, it’s sexual, it’s erotic, energetic. I think that’s the point.”
As for all the names mentioned in song, Bega told Fox News that they were all women he dated in the past.
“I dated a lot of pretty nice ladies when I was younger,” he said. “These names of my past, you know, just came to me and I wrote it down, got the melody and the rest is history.”
If you’re wondering if he had a favorite, he admitted that it was Sandra, and “that’s why she was the one in the sun.”