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Stephen King’s Undying Love for ‘Mambo No. 5’ Nearly Caused His Wife to Divorce Him

Stephen King Undying Love for Mambo No 5 Nearly Caused His Wife to Divorce Him
Stephen King Slaven Vlasic/Getty Images

Stephen King and his wife, Tabitha King, have been through a lot together, but the greatest test in their marriage was caused by one man: Lou Bega.

Stephen, 75, recently confirmed that he is a “big time” fan of Bega’s 1999 hit “Mambo No. 5,” which he listened to often while writing his 2011 novel, 11/22/63. “My wife threatened to divorce me,” he told Rolling Stone in an interview published on Tuesday, September 5. “I played that a lot.”

His passion for the tune wasn’t just limited to the radio edit, though — he was all in on Bega. “I had the dance mix,” Stephen recalled. “I loved those extended play things, and I played both sides of it. And one of them was just total instrumental. And I played that thing until my wife just said, ‘One more time, and I’m going to f–king leave you.’”

Stephen went on to explain that he sometimes listens to one track or genre over and over again while he’s writing. “And a lot of it is techno stuff or disco stuff, but techno in particular, there’s this group called LCD Soundsystem, and I love that,” he said. “Fatboy Slim is somebody else. I can just listen to that stuff. If you tried to write and listen to Leonard Cohen, how the f–k would you do that? Because you’d have to listen to the words and you’d have to listen to what he’s saying. But with some of the techno stuff, or KC and the Sunshine Band, Gloria Gaynor, it’s all good.”

Lou Bega Stephen King Undying Love for Mambo No 5 Nearly Caused His Wife to Divorce Him
Lou Bega Tim Mosenfelder/Getty Images

“Mambo No. 5,” however, is apparently the song where Tabitha, 74, drew the line. Sampling Pérez Prado’s 1950 track of the same name, the song reached No. 3 on the Billboard Hot 100 in November 1999, giving Bega, now 48, his first (and only) Top 40 hit in the United States.

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Reflecting on the song’s 20th anniversary in 2019, Bega said he struggled for a while with whether the tune’s success was a curse, but he ultimately chose a more optimistic outlook. “It can only be a blessing because it opened all the doors and changed my whole life,” he told Vanity Fair at the time.

Stephen King Undying Love for Mambo No 5 Nearly Caused His Wife to Divorce Him Tabitha King
Tabitha King and Stephen King Robin Platzer/FilmMagic

Stephen, for his part, first opened up about his wife’s “Mambo No. 5” hatred in a 2009 Entertainment Weekly essay about earworms — and he got a little more specific about what she said. “I want to share that my wife once informed me that she would disembowel me with her sharpest Ginsu knife if I played the extended version one more time,” he wrote of Tabitha, whom he wed in 1971.

Despite that threat, Stephen still needed a little bit of Monica in his life. “I waited until [Tabitha] was running errands, then played it … not once but several times,” he recalled. “Because that’s the thing with earworms: They attract even as they repulse.”

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