“Ma Baker” by Boney M.
This Boney M. classic is actually based on the legend of an infamous early 20th century outlaw named Ma Barker. The writers of the song decided to name it “Ma Baker” instead because it flowed better.
But that being said, the way “Ma Baker” is depicted appears to be an exaggerated account. For example, it doesn’t seem that she was actually “the meanest cat” and “really tough”. Rather history reveals that she operated more along the lines of being an accessory to the crimes of her sons, who were the true criminals. Indeed they were amongst the most-recognized gangsters of their era.
And as the song indicates, “Ma Baker” did in fact die in a shootout. And she did so along with her son, Fred Barker. However, in real life, it has been suggested that Ma herself never fired a gun during that melee. And it has also been postulated, according to accounts of those who actually knew her, that J. Edgar Hoover, the head of the FBI (the law enforcement agency involved in the shootout) overstated her criminal activity in the name of rationalizing killing a 61-year old lady.
But at the end of the day, the story that stuck with the public throughout the decades is that of “Ma Baker” herself being a criminal leader. And there have been a number of movies made depicting her as such. So we can say that the popular understanding of this lady is more or less based on something akin to an urban legend. And it is that same myth which serves as the lyrical foundation of this song.
Facts about “Ma Baker”
The labels behind this track are Atlantic Records in the UK, Atco Records in the US and Hansa Records and Germany.
And “Ma Baker” was first released as the lead single from Bony M.’s second album, “Love for Sale”, on 2 May 1977.
In select countries the single was back by the track “Still I’m Sad”, which was Boney M.’s cover of a tune The Yardbirds originally dropped in 1965.
In other countries, the B-side to “Ma Baker” was “A Woman Can Change a Man”.
The song’s writers are Reyam, Fred Jay and the track’s producer, Frank Farian.
The sound of “Ma Baker” is based on a traditional Tunisian song entitled “Sidi Mansour”.
“Ma Baker” topped the music charts in over 10 nations. This included Germany, where Boney M. was perhaps most popular.
The track also peaked at number two on the UK Singles Chart, in addition to making an appearance on the Billboard Hot 100.
Additional vocals are provided to this song by Bill Swisher and his wife, Linda Blake. Bill Swisher was a friend of Frank Farian. And Mr. Farian utilized his voice for the “special bulletin” spoken section in the middle of the track. Moreover it is actually Linda Blake who acts as “Ma Baker” in the intro.
Frank Farian also happens to be the producer behind the Milli Vanilli lip-syncing debacle of the early 1990s. And Milli Vanilli actually recorded their own version of “Ma Baker” back in 1988.