Jessica Rabbit: Why Don’t You Do Right?

Gary K. Wolf & Richard Williams (1988)

“I’m not bad, I’m just drawn that way.”

-Jessica Rabbit

Jessica Rabbit is a fictional character in Who Censored Roger Rabbit? and its film adaptation Who Framed Roger Rabbit? She is depicted as Roger’s human toon wife. Jessica is renowned as one of the best-known sex symbols in animation.

Author Gary K. Wolf based Jessica primarily on the cartoon character Red from Tex Avery’s Red Hot Riding Hood. The film version of the character was inspired by various actresses. Richard Williams explained, “I tried to make her like Rita Hayworth; we took her hair from Veronica Lake, and Zemeckis kept saying, ‘What about the look Lauren Bacall had?'” He described that combination as an “ultimate male fantasy, drawn by a cartoonist.”

The song Why Don’t You Do Right? is an American blues and jazz-influenced pop song written by “Kansas Joe” McCoy and Herb Morand in 1936. Both men are given composer credits on the original 78 record label, although Morand’s name is misspelled. A minor key twelve-bar blues with a few chord substitutions, it is considered a classic “woman’s blues” song and has become a standard.

In 1936, the Harlem Hamfats recorded Why Don’t You Do Right? Band member McCoy later rewrote the song, refining the composition and lyrics. The new tune was recorded by Lil Green in 1941, with guitar by William “Big Bill” Broonzy. The recording was an early jazz and blues hit.[3]

The song has its roots in blues music and originally dealt with a marijuana smoker reminiscing about lost financial opportunities. As it was rewritten, it takes on the perspective of the female partner, who chastises her man for his irresponsible ways: “Why don’t you do right, like some other men do? Get out of here and get me some money too.”

One of the best-known versions of the song was recorded by Peggy Lee and Benny Goodman on July 27, 1942, in New York. Featured in the 1943 film, Stage Door Canteen, it sold over one million copies and brought her to nationwide attention.

Lee often stated that Green’s recording was influential to her music. In a 1971 interview she said, “I had the record, and I used to play it over and over in my dressing room, which was next to Benny Goodman¬†… Finally¬†… he said, ‘I think you really like that song.’ I said, ‘Oh, I love it.’ He said, ‘Would you like to sing it?'” Lee said yes, so Goodman had an arrangement made of it for Lee to sing.

In 1988 Why Don’t You Do Right? was sung by Jessica Rabbit in a very provocative way.

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