The Chipmunks Biography

A fictional group, the Chipmunks were three cartoon characters, Alvin, Theodore and Simon, who were created by Ross Bagdasarian (27 January 1919, Fresno, California, USA, d. 16 January 1972, Beverly Hills, Los Angeles, California, USA), a multifaceted performer, who had earlier had an international hit as David Seville with ‘Witch Doctor’ in early 1958. On that hit, Bagdasarian had manipulated a tape recorder so that normally sung vocals played back at a faster speed. Using the same technique, he experimented with the sound of three voices harmonizing at that faster speed and it reminded him of the chattering of chipmunks. Bagdasarian had recorded ‘Witch Doctor’ for Liberty Records (the three Chipmunks, Alvin, Theodore and Simon, were named after Liberty Records executives), which released ‘The Chipmunk Song’ for the Christmas 1958 season. It reached number 1 in the USA and was quickly followed by ‘Alvin’s Harmonica’ which climbed to number 3. In all, the Chipmunks placed eight songs on the US charts between 1958 and 1962, spawning a hit television programme. They continued well into the 60s, recording an album of Beatles songs. Bagdasarian died in January 1972 but the television show was revived in 1979 by his son, Ross Bagdasarian Jnr., and his partner Janice Karmen. Further albums of the Chipmunks singing punk, country, rock and a set of dance remixes have followed! Warning: an entire Chipmunks album in one sitting is excruciating.

Source: The Encyclopedia of Popular Music by Colin Larkin. Licensed from Muze.

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