Where Does The Song From Hyundai’s ‘Lucky Guy’ Advert Actually Come From?

Has the Hyundai 2018 advert ever made you go 'huh, I wish I knew what that song was?' well I have the answer.

Adverts are notorious for having catchy jingles and music as a marketing strategy to get viewers/listeners to remember their products and increase their appeal, so customers are more likely to buy them.  This is especially effective if the music is paired with an ad that is creative and comedic as it becomes more memorable.  

An example of this is Cadbury’s 2014 advert in which an office worker (later named Keith) decides to have a bit of fun while waiting for his call to be connected and starts dancing to the hold music.  

Said music is none other than Baccara’s iconic 1977 anthem ‘Yes sir, I can Boogie.’  The ad must have been effective in boosting sales as soon after another version was brought out with half the office also proving they could boogie.  

This not only successfully conveyed Cadbury’s slogan at the time ‘there’s more than one way to feel the joy’ and made the ad memorable (I distinctly remember friends and family replicating the dance moves when it came on), but it also revived a 70’s hit, making a completely new generation aware of it (if they weren’t already, come on its Baccara!)  

This is exactly what happens with Hyundai’s ‘Lucky Guy’ advert from 2018-19, which uses the song 'Lucky, Lucky, Lucky Me' by Evelyn Knight, released in 1950.  

For this advert, Hyundai didn’t go for a comedic tone like Cadbury but instead went for a heart-warming message about family, the benefits of hard work, and most importantly why Hyundais are the most suitable car for people who care about these things, and the song helps convey that message beautifully. 

While it may seem like the music the company chose to accompany the ad is so perfect it was composed especially for it, this is not the case. Like Cadbury, Hyundai plucked an older song from obscurity and brought it back to the forefront, getting it stuck in everyone’s heads once more. But where did the song come from?

1. There are over 14 different versions of the song

The song 'Lucky, Lucky, Lucky Me' in Hyundai’s 2018 advert for their Tucson model has over 14 different versions released from 1950 right up to 2019. Some versions with lyrics some without, some in English some not; but the one used by Hyundai is the original (and the best in my opinion), sung by Evelyn Knight with the Ray Charles singers in 1950, with lyrics written by Milton Berle and Buddy Arnold.  

2. The song is sung by Evelyn Knight

Evelyn Knight, originally named Evelyn Davis, was an American singer born on the 31st of December 1917 in Reedville, Virginia. Like many young people at the time, Knight first began singing in her local church choir (as a soprano).  

After her father died when she was 11, Knight and her mother moved to Arlington County and when she was 16 she began singing in Washington nightclubs, debuting with the stage name Honey Davis. When she was 18 she married a war photographer named Andrew B. Knight and assumed her married name as her professional credit as well.  

During her career Knight had two No.1 hits, her first−A Little Bird Told Me−sold over 2 million copies and stayed at No.1 for 7 weeks. She also had 13 songs that reached the top 40 and was a headliner at many posh hotels and supper clubs across the country.  

Evelyn Knight 1950s singer

She rivalled singers such as Dinah Shore, Jo Stafford, and Peggy Lee in popularity and was well known for her ‘sophisticated and witty singing style.’  By the late 1940s, she had moved to Los Angeles and had earned enough money to put her sister through college and allow her mother to retire.

Despite having such a successful career, Knight decided to quit while she was ahead, retiring when she was just 37 and never performing in public again. Her sister is quoted as saying ‘she knew she'd paid her dues. She went out on top, and she didn't want to go back.’  

In the 1950s Knight returned to the industry, working in music publishing, and in 1961 she was awarded a star on the Hollywood walk of fame−however, no one told her about it! (how negligent can you be to forget to tell the person you’re giving an award to that you’re giving them an award?!).

In 1967 Knight moved to Phoenix and lived quietly as an office manager and babysitter, only singing in her church choir, ending as she began. Virtually none of the people she interacted with in her later life had any idea that she had such an extraordinary past.

3. The Melody is taken from the Italian Tarantella Napoletana

While Evelyn Knight and the Ray Charles singers get credit for singing the song, and Milton Berle and Buddy Arnold wrote the lyrics, the song wouldn’t exist without the original melody, and that comes from the Italian Tarantella from Naples−aka the Tarantella Napoletana.  

The credit for that is attributed to 19th-century composer Luigi Ricci, who invented it for his best-known comic opera La Festa Di Piedigrotta in 1852.  

The title is a reference to the Neapolitan Piedigrotta Festival, which had a song-writing competition at its center. The Tarantella itself as an art form is a quick dance in duple time accompanied by music with a distinctive rhythm.  

It is said that the Tarantella gets its name from a province in Southern Italy called Taranto; however, there’s also another explanation for the name which is a little more fun. 

Tarantella happens to be quite close to ‘tarantula’ (that’s right, the giant spiders you don’t want to meet), what does this have to do with the dance itself, you ask?  Well, there’s a famous legend that if you are bitten by a tarantula, the only way to rid your body of its poison is to dance like crazy.  

Although there are no credible sources linking tarantula bites to Tarantella dancing, there are records of dance hysteria, where people are unable to stop dancing, in historical records.  

The Tarantella became the inspiration for many classical Western composers once they heard it, and so the Tarantella made its way around, becoming incorporated in lots of the popular music at the time.  

This included the United States which was receiving a significant increase in the number of Italian immigrants moving there throughout the turn of the 20th century.  Of course, it ended up being the backbone of Evelyn Knight’s 'Lucky, Lucky, Lucky Me,' all it needed was lyrics…

4. Milton Berle and Buddy Arnold wrote the lyrics

Milton Berle, real name: Mendel Belinger, was an American entertainer with a career spanning over 80 years. He started as a child actor, performing in silent films and on stage, before moving to radio, tv, and film (spoken this time).

Milton Berle

After accepting the role of host for NBC’s Texaco Theatre (from 1948-55) viewers began to refer to him as ‘Uncle Miltie’ and ‘Mr. Television,’ subsequently he became America’s first major TV star and was awarded not one, but two stars on the Hollywood walk of fame for his work.  

Well deserved they were too, considering that with Berle hosting the Texaco Theatre NBC had 97% of the viewership, businesses would even shut down for the hour or close for the evening so that customers (and presumably their staff) wouldn’t miss out on watching Berle do his thing. He also stood up for black artists, using his influence to ensure they weren’t prevented from performing:

‘I remember clashing with the advertising agency and the sponsor over my signing the Four Step Brothers for an appearance on the show. The only thing I could figure out was that there was an objection to black performers on the show, but I couldn't even find out who was objecting. "We just don't like them," I was told, but who the hell was "we?" Because I was riding high in 1950, I sent out the word: "If they don't go on, I don't go on." At ten minutes of eight-ten minutes before showtime—I got permission for the Step Brothers to appear. If I broke the color-line policy or not, I don't know, but later on, I had no trouble booking Bill Robinson or Lena Horne.’

In 1950 he wrote the lyrics for 'Lucky, Lucky, Lucky Me'−to be performed by Evelyn Knight and the Ray Charles Singers− with Buddy Arnold.

Bernard ‘Buddy’ Arnold was an American songwriter born in 1916 in New York City and studied at the City College of New York. He joined the American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers (ASCAP) in 1951 and worked with many collaborators throughout his career including Victor Young, Heywood Kling, Larry Gelbart, Jack Gould, Jay Burton, and of course Milton Berle with whom he wrote 'Lucky, Lucky, Lucky Me.'

'Lucky, Lucky, Lucky Me' was not Evelyn Knight’s most successful song, but for me at least it is her most memorable, there is just something about it that stands out compared to the rest of her repertoire, especially with the addition of the wonderful Ray Charles Singers.  

It’s certainly caught the attention of a completely new audience thanks to Hyundai’s advert and will hopefully cause a whole new generation of music lovers to expand their playlists and to explore other music than what they’re used to.

A graduate from UEA with a BA in English Lit. with Creative Writing. An aspiring writer and editor, loves anime/manga, films and books.

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