The Chip­munks

The Washington Post Sunday - - BOOK WORLD -

Be­fore the Chip­munks were bank­able car­toon char­ac­ters — or even chip­munks — they were a sound. In 1958, song­writer Ross Bag­dasar­ian had fig­ured out how to record his singing voice at half-speed and then play it back an oc­tave higher as a high-pitched chirp, scor­ing a big nov­elty hit in 1958 with “Witch Doc­tor” (re­frain: “Oo-ee-oo-ah-ah-ting-tang-walla-walla-bing-bang”). Later that year, when he de­cided to as­sign these bizarre vo­cal­iza­tions to a fic­ti­tious trio of ro­dents via “The Chip­munk Song (Christ­mas Don’t Be Late),” it all clicked with lis­ten­ers, bloom­ing into an en­ter­tain­ment fran­chise that still ex­ists nearly 60 years later.

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