EVERY UK NUMBER ONE SONG: ‘Running Bear’ – Johnny Preston

What was the number one song in the UK on 17th March 1960?

By Hayley Beasley Dye

American singer, Johnny Preston was number one for 2 weeks with Running Bear.

Wow. Okay, so this song has quite a strong narrative to it, which results in two lovers drowning in a river. Despite this, the tune is positively upbeat and if you didn’t listen to the lyrics properly, you wouldn’t be any wiser. The lyrics are also quite outdated, tales of an “Indian brave” and a “lovely Indian maid” wouldn’t be tolerated today.  Oh and good grief, just for good measure, there are even Native American “sounds” delivered at the beginning and ending of the song. However, despite the dodgy lyrics, the shameful appropriation and the tragic ending, unbelievably, I quite like this song.

Wikipedia

“Running Bear” is a song written by Jiles Perry Richardson (a.k.a. The Big Bopper) and sung most famously by Johnny Preston in 1959. The 1959 recording featured background vocals by Richardson and George Jones and the session’s producer Bill Hall, who provided the “Indian chanting” of “uga-uga” during the three verses, as well as the “Indian war cries” at the start and end of the record. It was No. 1 for three weeks in January 1960 on the Billboard Hot 100 in the United States. The song also reached No. 1 in the UK Singles Chart in 1960. Coincidentally, “Running Bear” was immediately preceded in the Hot 100 No. 1 position by Marty Robbins’ “El Paso”, another song in which the protagonist dies. Billboard ranked “Running Bear” as the No. 4 song of 1960.

Lyrics

“On the banks of the river stood runnin’ bear, young Indian brave
On the other side of the river stood his lovely Indian maid
Little white dove was-a her name, such a lovely sight to see
But their tribes fought with each other so their love could never be
Runnin’ bear loved little white dove with a love big as the sky
Runnin’ bear loved little white dove with a love that couldn’t die
He couldn’t swim the raging river ’cause the river was too wide
He couldn’t reach little white dove, waiting on the other side
In the moonlight he could see her blowing kisses ‘cross the waves
Her little heart was beating faster, waiting there for her brave
Runnin’ bear loved little white dove with a love big as the sky
Runnin’ bear loved little white dove with a love that couldn’t die
Runnin’ bear dove in the water, little white dove did the same
And they swam out to each other through the swirling stream they came
As their hands touched and their lips met, the ragin’ river pulled them down
Now they’ll always be together in that happy hunting ground
Runnin’ bear loved little white dove with a love big as the sky
Runnin’ bear loved little white dove with a love that couldn’t die”

The Playlist

Relive, enjoy and share every song and keep following Talk About Pop Music for more Number One posts!

Every UK Number One Song

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