“What Kind of Fool Am I?” by Sammy Davis Jr.

Most simply put, the vocalist of “What Kind of Fool Am I?” is lamenting the fact that he doesn’t have a lady in his life. That doesn’t mean he doesn’t have any experience on the field. But more specifically, he has yet to find one that truly lasts. And as implied by the tone of the title, this reality has resulted in or is connected to a self-defeatist attitude and low self-esteem that he has developed.

In fact it is such an emotion that comes through even more so than the singer lacking love. For instance, in what appears to be the second verse, it becomes clear that he is actually reeling from having his heart broken. And at the heart of said breakup would be something like the other party deceiving him. 

But Sammy doesn’t take it like that. Instead he has more of a blame-the-victim type of mentality, with himself being said victim. Or as perhaps a psychologist would say, his self-esteem is so low that any romantic misfortune which happens to him he would presume is his own fault.

So it’s like, that’s the 1960s for you. Back in those days, in contrast to songwriting teams sitting around with the ever-present goal of putting together a commercially-viable and mainstream-conforming pop song, many of the hits of the day, like this one, were actually derived from musicals. 

And musicals songs are based on characters as opposed to popular ideologies or being directly associated with the artist who performs it. So in the 21st century for instance you aren’t likely to hear a male singer drop a song like this – displaying a frailer side of being romantically vulnerable – with machismo and all being in full effect. 

But in the days of old, entertainers like Sammy Davis Jr. were more multi-faceted in their approach. And “What Kind of Fool Am I” is sort of like an emo song way before the genre even existed. For at the end of the day, the vocalist is really letting himself have it due to not having a significant other in his life “like any other man”. Or put differently, he feels that not having a girlfriend – not the sex aspect of it but rather an actual steady partner – makes him inferior.

Lyrics to “What Kind of Fool Am I?”

Facts about “What Kind of Fool Am I?”

This song has two writers, both of whom were from the UK. And they are Anthony Newley (1931-1999) and Leslie Bricusse. And it was originally featured on a musical called Stop the World – I Want to Get Off which came out in 1961.

In that particular case this song was performed by Anthony Newley, who was actually an actor and singer on top of being a songwriter. And his rendition went on to win a Grammy Award for himself and Bricusse, in the category of Song of the Year, in 1963 (i.e. the 5th Annual Grammy Awards).

Sammy Davis Jr.’s version was featured on an album he dropped, via Reprise Records, called “What Kind of Fool Am I and other Show-Stoppers”, in 1962.

Sammy Davis Jr.’s “What Kind of Fool Am I?”

Sammy Davis Jr.

In addition to being a world-class entertainer, Sammy Davis Jr. (1925-1990) was one of the most important African-American figures of his day. That is because for a time he was arguably the foremost Black musician who was accepted by the mainstream American society at large, even at a time when segregation and other forms of discrimination were legally practiced. 

In fact he was down with a personal crew known as the Rat Pack alongside the likes of Dean Martin (1917-1995) and Frank Sinatra (1915-1998), White artists who were on top of the entertainment world during the mid-20th century.

And this is not to imply that Sammy was a sellout or anything like that, which it seems many people are falsely under the impression he was. Rather Davis Jr. was what the National Endowment for the Humanities referred to as an “impassioned apostle for the struggle”, having personally been recruited to the cause by none other than Martin Luther King Jr. (1929-1968) himself.

And the reason an entity like the National Endowment for the Humanities and comparable organizations would write about Sammy Davis Jr. in the first place is because he was one of those entertainers whose influence transcended pop media and affected the world at large. 

As far as his musical career goes, Jr.’s biggest hit was a 1972 track entitled The Candy Man. However, “What Kind of Fool Am I” holds a special place in Mr. Show Business’s history also, as it is the only song of his which is currently (as of 2021) inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame. And as far as its chart showing, it broke the top 20 of the Billboard Hot 100 and top 30 of the UK Singles Chart.

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