Deee-Lite: “Groove Is in the Heart”
For Cover Friday this week, I’m doing more of a “Sample Friday,” really, but it’s the same general idea: a great song based around a particularly definitive song sample, rather than being a cover of the entire song. In this case, it’s the memorable but fairly short-lived group, Deee-Lite — they of the groovacious frontwoman and fashion icon, Lady Miss Kier — with their hit dance track, “Groove Is in the Heart,” released on their debut album, World Clique, in 1990. Chances are pretty good that if you’ve listened to the radio or have gone dancing in the last 20 years, you know the song…it’s pretty pervasive. And rightfully so: it’s one of the most upbeat, infectious dance songs out there (and that’s saying a lot) — it’ difficult to hear “Groove Is in the Heart” without it bringing at least a hint of a smile to your face.
Aside from the great singing of Kier (she definitely had style), the most memorable element of the song is the introductory bass line. But chances are also pretty good that even if you realized that the bass line was a sample from somewhere else, you’d never heard the song it came from. As it turns out, however, the first time I heard “Groove Is in the Heart,” I immediately picked up on it — it just so happens that the original song is on an album my parents had owned since I was small: the soundtrack to the 1966 Michelangelo Antonioni movie, Blow-Up. I’m not entirely sure of their reason for having the album, but I’m glad they did, as it’s a great soundtrack. It had a number of original jazz songs by Herbie Hancock, as well as one of the The Yardbirds’ greatest songs, “Stroll On” (which they actually perform in the movie, complete with Jimmy Page and Jeff Beck on stage at the same time).
The particular song that “Groove Is in the Heart” is based on is “Bring Down the Birds,” a jazzy instrumental by Hancock that is about as dated a Swinging ’60s track as you’ll come across — but it’s great because of that.
Clearly, Deee-Lite’s DJ Dmitry and DJ Towa Towa (later known as Towa Tei when he went solo) thought so too, because they built an entire song around the song’s bass line. Little did Herbie Hancock know that his instrumental would one day become the basis for one of the all-time-great dance grooves — I certainly hope he got some royalties out of it.
And a discussion of “Groove Is in the Heart” would be incomplete without a look at the deee-lightful video (which includes Bootsy Collins, a de-facto member of the group if not an official one):