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November 6, 2002

'Talking' Gorilla Pens Album Lyrics

From: Billboard
Nov. 6, 2002

Koko, California's famous "talking" gorilla, is breaking into song. The 31-year-old lowland gorilla, who is said to have mastered some 1,000 terms in American sign language, has "written" lyrics for a new album which should be available by the end of the week, her keepers said.

"The songs show a real depth of emotion. She's a complex person, just like we are," said Jennifer Patterson, a spokeswoman for the California-based Gorilla Foundation near San Francisco, which has been Koko's home for some three decades.

The album, titled "Fine Animal Gorilla" after Koko's term for herself, runs the gamut of musical styles from low intensity rap and reggae to lullabies. While Koko herself does not sing on the album -- that is left to human vocalists -- she did sign off on the song lyrics and delivery.

"We pretty much run all our lyrics by Koko," album producer Skip Haynes told KCBS radio. "Now, she's getting to the point where she actually listens to different mixes and tells us what mix she likes."

Patterson said the CD will be available through the foundation's official Web site and is expected to cost about $14.

Koko is one of several gorillas that reputedly learned the basics of American Sign Language, and has frequently been pressed into service as an ambassador for her species. Lowland gorillas like Koko are threatened by logging and poaching in their native habitats in central Africa, while their cousins, the mountain gorillas, now number fewer than 500 in the wild.

COPYRIGHT: (c) Reuters 2002.