Who Wrote the ‘Willy Wonka’ Classic “The Candy Man”?

From a bright, animated gust of lively horns and merry woodwinds arises some very pertinent questions. Who can take a sunrise? / Sprinkle it with dew? / Cover it with chocolate and a miracle or two? Well, according to the song, the Candy Man can. But an even better question may be, who wrote the cheery Willy Wonka tune-turned-beloved Sammy Davis Jr. hit?

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Who Wrote It?

“The Candy Man” was written by composer Leslie Bricusse with lyricist Anthony Newley specifically for the 1971 Gene Wilder-led film, Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory. Actor Aubrey Woods, the candy stripe-clad sweets dealer in the movie, first sang the tune, capturing hearts with his whimsical delivery.

According to MOJO, however, Newley detested Woods’ performance of the song and went as far as offering to play the role himself. The film’s producers declined and Woods remained the singer of the classic song in Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory. Watch his performance below.

Enter Sammy Davis Jr.

While Sammy Davis Jr. disliked “The Candy Man” at first, the song ended up being his biggest and only No. 1 hit.

The singer reportedly spurned the song as being “too Julie Andrews.” But in striking a deal with MGM executive Mike Curb, MOJO details, Davis reluctantly agreed to record the song and give it a refreshed pop take.

Scheduled to perform for troops in Vietnam, the entertainer rushed through recording the tune, calling it done in just two takes. “This record is going straight into the toilet,” he was quoted as saying at the time. “Not just around the rim but into the bowl, and it may just pull my whole career down with it.”

Quite the opposite would follow. The song was released in the spring of 1972 and by that summer, Davis’ “The Candy Man” had found its place at the top of the Billboard Hot 100. The song would soon become Davis’ signature, earning him the moniker of the Candy Man and a little credit from the in-crowd who believed the tune to be rife with drug references.

Despite the song’s success and what it did for his career, Davis was still not a fan of the ditty in the end. He was later quoted as saying, “If I had my way I wouldn’t listen to ‘Candy Man,’ as big as that record was for me.”

He sure gives a believable performance though. Check it out below.

(Photo By Rick Diamond/Getty Images)

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