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Jimmy Fallon Does It Again

Late night comedy shows, is nothing sacred?

Preservers and Encouragers of Barbershop all across the land watched in mixed horror and glee as Jimmy Fallon and his merry men in the (appropriately?) named Rag Time Gals took the stage with a rousing rendition of the 90s R&B group Color Me Badd’s I Wanna Sex You Up. (Yes, you’ve read that right.) This was just their latest performance in a recent string of their reinterpretations of the “modern classics” (ahem).

At least this time, The Rag Time Gals actually rang some chords. And they did it in front of millions.

Honestly, to see our Barbershop style treated with such bold and fearless irreverence is nothing new to anyone who’s been around for the past half century or so. Those who hold this art form near and dear, time and again have seen the likes of the Beatles, Jerry Lewis, the Simpsons, Family Guy, David Letterman, and Conan O’Brien (just to name a few) reach for the low hanging fruit of comedic juxtaposition and attempt to frame the modern against the old. Painting a mustache on the Mona Lisa, if you will.

However, questions of taste and style notwithstanding, The Rag Time Gals and others like them are ironically proving to the world the inherent entertainment value of joining together in four part harmony and delivering a message, vulgar or not. It’s Vaudeville, today. And either to the joy or dismay of our Society membership, it’s being presented to the world as barbershop, and right or wrong, television audiences are accepting that it is, indeed, barbershop.

So, important questions impossible to answer in the small space of this meager editorial get raised: Is barbershop simply an art form? Is it a set of values and ideals? For the lifelong fans and committed members of the Barbershop Harmony Society, it’s probably both and much more. But then there’s the harsh realization that to the vast majority of the uninitiated masses, Barbershop is a rag tag group of lowbrow comedians singing I Wanna Sex You Up in top hats and suspenders.

The good news is that they sounded pretty good while doing it.

But the even better news is that the Barbershop Harmony Society has been bringing together the Old and New for over 75 years, and we’ve gotten really good at it! One visit to any of our International conventions will prove this to anyone, and the more people that have the chance to see Barbershop through this lens will begin to understand not just the smile-inducing power of four part harmony, but its transformative power to change lives for the better.

The Rag Time Gals on YouTube (click if you dare)