Chimpanzee Bandstand

A study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences shows that chimpanzees exposed to electronic music will sway along with the beat.  They had previously been known to bang rhythmically on tree trunks, but the observation that they can move their bodies in time to music is new.

The Wall Street Journal

               The guys, hangin’.


We were sitting around–me, Goliath and Humphrey–waiting for evolution to kick in, when Humphrey started to whine, as usual.

“There’s nothing for young primates to do around here.”

“Only boring animals get bored,” I said, repeating a bit of wisdom my mother had drilled into me as a young chimp.

“What’s that supposed to mean?” Humphrey asked.

“We are, each of us, responsible for keeping ourselves amused,” I said.  “Make a threat posture at Goliath, all of a sudden your life will get very interesting.”

“Yeah,” Goliath said.  “You feel froggy, just leap.  Ain’t no fence around my ass.”  Goliath–or “G-Man” as he likes to be called, is the biggest, dumbest ape in the pack.  His descendants will walk upright but won’t be fully-developed hominids.  Think middle-linebacker.

“There’s got to be more to life than conflict,” Humphrey said.

“Conflict good,” Goliath grunted.

“Sure it is, we couldn’t evolve without it,” I said, trying to “triangulate” between the two diametrically-opposed positions, like a 20th-century politician.  “But it’s hard on those–and I include myself among them–whose chances of passing on our genetic material will depend in large part more on finesse than conquest.”

I looked at Goliath out of the corner of my eye to make sure he wasn’t about to fling some poop at me.  I hate it when he does that.

“What did you have in mind?” Humphrey asked.

“I don’t know.  Maybe next time a female walks by we–I’m just spit-balling here–get up and wiggle our butts.”

“Ha, ha,” Goliath laughed mirthlessly.  “What a loser.”

“What works for you doesn’t work for us, okay?” I said.

Tentatively busting a move.


“You really think that females will be attracted to that?” Humphrey asked.

“As opposed to offering them food, and the skull of an enemy?” Goliath added thoughtfully.  What a freaking hunter-gatherer.

“Haven’t you ever noticed how they like to sashay around?” I asked rhetorically.  It’s a new trick I’m working on, where I ask a question but I already know the answer.

“Come to think of it,” Humphrey mused, whenever I go BOOM-shakka-lakka-lakka-BOOM against a tree trunk, Daisy . . . “

“The cute one with the long toenails?” I asked.


“I saw first!” Goliath said, asserting what he thought to be his inalienable right to all females if he could scare away all nearby males.

“Why don’t we try a new system,” I said.  “We bang on tree . . . wiggle our butts . . . and then let them decide!”

“Not fair to Goliath.”  I don’t have to add that it was Goliath who said that.

“May I have this dance?”


“Goliath, old sport,” I said, shifting into pan troglodyte Gatsby-mode, “you can only have sex with one female at a time.”

The math puzzled Goliath at first.  He looked down at his nether regions, counted off the number of organs he saw there, and reluctantly agreed with me.

“I guess you’re right.”

“You know I’m right,” I said, and more than a little smugly.  “Humphrey?”


“I’m going to bang on this tree, see if I can attract someone special for you.”


I set up a rhythm that, if you listen closely enough, you’ll be able to hear a couple of million years from now in the opening measures of “New Orleans” by Gary U.S. Bonds.

Image result for gary u.s. bonds
    Gary “U.S.” Bonds


“Good beat,” Goliath grudgingly conceded.

“You can dance to it,” I seconded, anticipating “Record Review” on American Bandstand.

Image result for record review american bandstand
     Record Review, American Bandstand


Humphrey stood up and, as was his wont, began to screech.  “I said a-hey, hey, hey, yeah!”

Goliath and I had no free will in the matter–we just had to respond: “Hey, hey, hey, yeah!”

“I said-a look out child, hey hey-a yeah!”

“I said-a look out child, hey hey-a yeah!”

Over the crest of the hill I saw Daisy and two of her gal-pals, peering down at us, exchanging glances.  “See?” I said to Goliath.


“Females like to dance.”

“What dance?”

“Moving rhythmically to a beat.  Get up and shake what creation gave you!”

Goliath stood up hesitantly and began to wig-wag back and forth.

“That’s it!”

Image result for do you love me now that i can dance

“Goliath feel silly,” he said.

“Shut up and dance,” I said.

For Humphrey, it was a breakthrough.  The guy had some moves, and sure enough, Daisy came running down the hill and joined him in a silent, seductive pas de deux, as the guys say in the caves of Lascaux.  Between boo-ga-loos and shing-a-lings, I could see Humphrey actually talking to his girl.

“Do you love me,” he asked, “now that I can dance?”

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