Monday, 18 July 2022

Celebrity Jukebox #11: Jimmy Cagney

"Made it, Ma - Top of the World!" 

I'm pretty sure that when the Original Gangster shouted those words, he was celebrating having Nik Kershaw name a song after him...

Talk tougher than James Cagney
Act smarter than Charlie Chan
Love longer than Valentino
Or you never will be a man which has the same tune as The Riddle, only slowed down.

Can Jimmy Cagney do better than Nik Kershaw?

Can he do worse?

How about Styx?

The movie house stood in silence as I said my last good-byes
Her silver screen was stained with memories
As Cagney shot them down
As I watched I was that hero
In dreamlands lost and found

No, we can do much better than that, Mr. Cagney. Let's start with Kate...

Both my partners
Act like actors
You are Bogart
He is George Raft
That leaves Cagney and me
(What about Edward G.?)

What about Edward G, indeed? Bogie gets name-dropped all over the place, but I'm struggling to find another mention of Edward G. Robinson in a pop song. Unless you know different... 

Tom Waits, meanwhile, mentions Jimmy not once, but twice...

And you feel just like Cagney, she looks like Rita Hayworth
At the counter of the Schwab's drugstore
You wonder if she might be single, she's a loner and likes to mingle
Got to be patient, try and pick up a clue

But Romeo is bleeding as he gives the man his ticket
And he climbs to the balcony at the movies
And he'll die without a whimper
Like every hero's dream
Just an angel with a bullet
And Cagney in the screen

Now how about a little Green On Red?

She says I look like a Jimmy Cagney
She makes me feel like cherry wine
I'm gonna take down to the valley
This time around I'm gonna make her mine

Maybe though, if you really want to pay tribute to James Cagney, you need to go to some real gangsters...

Cagney is a favorite, he's my boy
He don't jive around, he's a real McCoy

Although Gil Scott-Heron isn't quite so sure, using Cagney as one of many "tough guy" metaphors to criticise Ronald Reagan's election win... 

But since John Wayne was no longer available, 
They settled for Ronald Reagan and it has placed us in a situation 
That we can only look at like a "B" movie

Bogart tough the man is
Cagney tough the man is
Hollywood tough the man is
Cheap steak tough
And Bonzo's substantial
The ultimate in synthetic selling: 
A Madison Avenue masterpiece 
A miracle - a cotton-candy politician... Presto!

It doesn't get much better than that. But I'm going to leave you today with someone else who gets name-checked by Gil in the poetry above...

His Bobness.

They let him out in '71 he'd lost a little weight
But he dressed like Jimmy Cagney and I swear he did look great
He tried to find the way back into the life he left behind
To the boss he said, I have returned and now I want what's mine


  1. Great choice of actor, and thanks for reminding me of White Heat. I hope I'm not the only one of your readers who is enjoying this series

    1. Well, I'm enjoying it, George, and that's all that matters here.

  2. Now that was impressive... the list and the artists.

  3. Longest list of songs to date I think, but understandable, it being Cagney.

    Many of us enjoying this series Rol.



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