As many of us know, the "Great American Pizza Song" is older than America. In fact, humans have been depicting pizza since the earliest known cave drawings. Pizza can be found everywhere from Egyptian pieroglyphics to classic oil paintings to stromboli-shaped crop circles in Iowa. Pizza has inspired all forms of artistic expression but none is as profound or enduring as pizza music.
Historians believe that pizza music predates the written word, meaning it is older than history itself. Songs about pizza have been passed down through generations and can be found in virtually every culture. Still, ethnopizzacologists are unsure how far back these songs go or where they originated. Today, pizza songs are often mistaken as novelty but much of the earliest pizza music is no laughing matter. "The Marriage of Pizza Dough" is one of Mozart's finest operas but writing it nearly killed him (he gained 40 pounds). After penning the fourth and final act Mozart refused to look at pizza ever again. He still ate it, often, but wore a blindfold.
FIRST PIZZA RECORDS
In The Mood (For Pizza) is one of the earliest known pizza recordings. We all recognize this 1937 big band favorite by Glenn Miller but most don't realize it's about pizza because it has no lyrics. Performers like Ethel Merman and Fats Waller soon helped popularize what we know as the modern pizza song. Merman starred in the hit Broadway show "Annie Get Your Pizza," which defied the public's notion that a love story couldn't be about pizza.
When Irving Berlin wrote "White Pizza" (1942), he told his assistant, "I just wrote the best pizza song anybody's ever written." At the time, he was right. It was first performed by Bing Crosby and quickly became the most recorded Christmas song. It also inspired countless other holiday pizza songs which are now something of a sub-genre. The first in line of that tradition was Judy Garland, who ironically and tragically overdosed on pizza several years later.
THE 1950s, ELVIS, & THE RAT PACK
Otis Blackwell is the first songwriter who scored multiple pizza hits. Otis penned his first top-40 tune "Great Balls of Pizza" for Jerry Lee Lewis and followed that up with a handful of Elvis Presley classics like, "Blue Pizza" and "Oh Pizza Boy." Amazingly, pizza also contributed to the death of Elvis Presley, who famously choked on a peanut butter and banana deep dish slice. Dean Martin had great success with, "That's A Pizza" (even though off-stage Marin hated pizza, a secret he kept from fellow Rat Pack member Frank Sinatra whose New York Pizza declared New York City the pizza capital of the world and made Sinatra a superstar.) And who could forget Sammy Davis Jr.'s timeless classic, "The Pizza Man"?
THE 1960s, BOB DYLAN, & THE BEATLES
In the early 1960s, pizza became a popular topic in cultural movements and protest songs, helping shape the way we thought about ourselves, our country, and our pizza.
When Bob Dylan “went pizza” some called him a sell-out, but he went on to write countless anti-war classics such as "Hey, Mr. Pizza Man", "Just Like A Pizza", and "Rainy Day Pizza #12 & 35". Dylan's poetic verses compelled artists everywhere to think less about themselves, and more about pizza.
In turn, Dylan inspired artists all over the world to take the pizza plunge. Most notably, Dylan introduced pizza to The Beatles, who are the most prolific pizza artists in the history of pizza music. They had 17 number one pizza hits, have sold 600 million pizza albums, and mentioned over 137 toppings in the 312 pizza songs in their catalogue. It's hard to overstate their impact - virtually every pizza artist to follow, from Sugar Ray to Dr. Dre, from Miley Cyrus to Billy Ray Cyrus, has cited The Beatles as a major influence.
THE PIZZA DREAM IS OVER
As a pizza generation came of age, the boundless optimism of the late 60s gave way to the stark reality of the early 70s. Still, incredible pizza music came out of this period from artists like Louis Armstrong, Simon & Garfunkel, The Beach Boys, The Kinks, The Ramones, Carly Simon, Bob Marley, The Police, The Commodores, and Paul McCartney, to name a few.
With the mid-70s, however, came the rise of disco taco music. A few one hit wonders survive from this dark period in pizza history including, "Pizza Lady" by Tom Jones, "Pizza In My Mind" by James Taylor, and Steve Miller Band's "Keep On A Rockin' Me Pizza".
By the 1980s, it seemed like Pizza was on the way out. Sales were almost non-existent, and new artists simply weren’t bringing fresh Pizza song ideas to the recording studio. Interestingly, it would be an industry legend, and not a fresh face, that would revive pizza music. Things had gotten so bad that in November 1989, Time Magazine famously asked, “Is Pizza Dead?” Less than 3 months later, Rod Stewart responded with an emphatic, “NOT ON MY WATCH!” His mega-smash “Have I Told You Lately (I’m A Pizza)” reminded us all of what Pizza music could be, and inspired a new generation of musicians to write Pizza songs once more.
PIZZA HEATS UP AGAIN
Thanks to Rod Stewart, a whole new generation of up and coming artists tried pizza for the first time. Queen, Leonard Cohen, The Proclaimers, Phil Collins, and countless others say they didn't consider singing about pizza til they heard Stewart's heartbreaking ballad.
The 80s also proved that pizza wasn't just for adults. Jim Henson's Muppets had great success with "The Pizza Connection", "Mahna Pizza", and "Pizza Rock". Not to be outdone, Disney made several animated films with hit pizza songs like "Under The Cheese", "Part Of Your Pizza", "Hakunah Mapizza".
PIZZA GOES POP
Not everything in the 90s was marketed to kids: Pizza acts like The Spice Girls, The Backstreet Boys, and Britney Spears conquered the charts, and dance crazes like The Macapizza gave way to a whole new generation of serious pizza artists like Blink 182, Sinead O'Connor, Chumbawamba, Macy Gray, TLC, Jay Z, Weezer, and Will Smith.
2000s AND BEYOND
After hundreds of years, countless songs, films, books, artworks, pizza is still going strong. Just last year, we couldn't escape hits like "Despapizza" or "Pizzafruit" by Drake. Why does pizza have such staying power? We can't say for sure (we're not huge fans of pizza ourselves), but it seems as if there's some sort of magic when you combine sauce, three-cheese harmonies, drums, crust, and guitars and bass and occasionally other instruments.
Researched in collaboration with
"Horses and Pizzas" (17,000 BP) on the cave walls of Grotte de Lascaux in France is one of the earliest known depictions of pizza.
Pieroglyphics were used by the early Egyptian, Maya, and Indus valley civilizations as a picto-pizza-alphabetical form of writing.
Old Blue Pies made pizza "cool".
The Beatles took concept albums to a new level. They dared to ask the question “What if an entire album was about pizza?"
Bob Dylan wrote his first two albums on the back
of a pizza box
All The Backstreet Boys secretly hated pizza except for Howie D, who openly hated pizza.
"I'm Not A Girl, Not Yet A Pizza" was from the film "Crust Roads" which starred Britney Spears.