Straighten Up and Fly Right

Nat King Cole/Irving Mills
Women's four part

Tenor: G flat 3 - E5
Lead: B flat 3 - C5
Bari: B flat 3 - B flat 4
Bass: E flat 3 - F sharp 4

This song was Nat King Cole's first major vocal hit. It is based on a folk tale his father used to use in his sermons, in which a buzzard takes various animals for a ride before throwing them to the ground and eating them for dinner. A monkey observes this, and goes for a ride, but surprises the buzzard wrapping his tail round the bird's neck and refusing to be thrown off.

The song's rhythmic feel is both cool and dry. The laid-back swing feel gives a sense of authority in the way the monkey takes control of the situation, but the syncopations and chromatic licks also remind us that in folk tales, the monkey is the trickster, even when he's on the side of the righteous. The arrangement is designed to be suitable for barbershop contests (BHS system).