I’m writing a paper on the folklore and culture of swing dancing, and what could exemplify that more than this classic cartoon of Tom and Jerry, called “Zoot Suit”? The suit that Tom makes to impress his ladyfriend is called zoot suit. “Zoot” is probably a redundancy of “suit”, according to the Oxford English Dictionary, which answers…nothing, I guess. Because they required a ridiculous amount of material, the suits were banned during wartime.
The Cherry Poppin’ Daddies’ song “Zoot Suit Riot” is about the, well, the Zoot Suit Riot. Basically during World War II, some Navy and Marines got into a fight with some Mexican-Americans (and Filipino-Americans). The uniformed guys thought they were unpatriotic, and the civilians thought they were racist. There were, even then, a lot of Latino men in the military, and these civilians resented that. But it was a fight, so.
Who’s that whisperin’ in the trees? It’s two sailors and they’re on leave
Pipes and chains and swingin’ hands, who’s your daddy? Yes I am
Two sailors are home on leave, looking to get laid.
Fat cat came to play, now he can’t run fast enough
You’d best stay away, when the pushers come to shove
Uh…someone wants to push…something…tip it over the edge? We’ll skip to the next verse.
You got me in a sway and I want to swing you done
Now you sailors know where your women come for love
Them’s fightin’ words!
Zoot suit riot, throw back a bottle of beer
Zoot suit riot, pull a comb through your coal black hair