Puttin' On the Ritz would be probably the most iconic song for world
traveled, European educated musician, Taco.
Taco is the stage name for Taco Ockerse. He was born in Jakarta, Indonesia and
would spend his youth traveling throughout Oceania, the United States, and
Europe. His formal education would be performed in Europe (High school in
Belgium and college in Germany). This diversity would lead to a broad spectrum
of interests in music genres that would be reflected in many of the school
productions he was involved in. It would be this diversity that would also be
one of the foundation stones in his voyage through music as a professional.
Signing on with Polydor Records in Germany (with distribution in North America
through RCA), he would have a rock solid commitment for two full album releases.
Prior to his first single he would release a series of singles through the label
with two actually hitting the charts as impressive remakes of classic songs tied
to the silver screen. One of these would not only be a hit in 1982, but would
live on in dance clubs and radio stations for the decades to come. The song was
Irving Berlin's Puttin' On The Ritz.
The music was a perfect remake of one of the classics from
the early 1900's, where Taco tied elements that can be found in certain songs by
David Bowie, Queen, and a unique hybrid feel of the old band music from the
1920's and the thriving New Wave/Synthpop feel of the early 1980's. He managed
to do this with other songs such as Singing In The Rain, but as time
would pass it would be Puttin' On The Ritz that would be heard in clubs
throughout the world and on a huge variety of FM radio stations.
Since the official release of Puttin' On The Ritz, it has reach the upper
parts of the music charts in Austria, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Germany, The
Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, the UK, and the US. It would hit
number 1 in Sweden's music charts and the US Cash Box Top 100 Singles. For the
Billboard charts it would claim the year end rankings of number 14 in Canada and
number 31 in the United States for 1983.
The video made for Puttin' On The Ritz created a large amount of
controversy that lead to two versions of the video. The original had more
visuals and had the chorus singers with black faces. This was a standard in the
1920's by Gershwin and others that were limited to mainly white performers in
their pieces. This led to offensive views in the Gershwin musicals and actually
helped open the doors to African Americans playing black roles in many of
Gershwins creations. Keeping the original feel in the video, Taco faced the same
resistance that Gershwin faced. What was a homage of an older era was viewed as
something offensive. This required a quick remake of the original video that
eliminated any offensive elements to ensure it could be seen in the world music
Even decades later, Puttin On The Ritz is still a song that entices the
young with the fluid mystery in melody that it presents to the listener. It is
this timeless quality that Taco was entranced with in the songs by Berlin and
Gershwin and is now found in his own music today.