, Dry Bones
or Dem Dry Bones
is a well-known traditional spiritual
, often used to teach basic anatomy to children (although its description is far from anatomically correct). The melody was written by James Weldon Johnson
. Two versions of this traditional song are widely used, the second an abridgement of the first. The lyrics are based on Ezekiel
37:1-14, where the prophet
visits the Valley of Dry Bones and brings them to life by mentioning God's name.
The chorus of the song is often used to teach children about skeletons:
- Toe bone connected to the foot bone
- Foot bone connected to the leg bone
- Leg bone connected to the knee bone...
Over the years, the song has been covered by The Delta Rhythm Boys, the Crazy World of Arthur Brown, Shirley Caesar, Rosemary Clooney, and many other artists.
References in popular culture
- Peter O'Toole sings the song in the 1972 film, The Ruling Class as a call-to-arms to the upper-classes to "bring back fear" by means of the breaking wheel.
- Dem Bones is an integral part of "Fall Out", the final episode of British cult show The Prisoner. It is performed on screen in one scene and heard on a car radio in another. This version is performed by The Four Lads.
- The song has been featured in television dramas such as The Singing Detective.
- In The Simpsons episode, "Homer's Triple Bypass," Dr. Nick Riviera, stumped in the middle of the operation, sings the song in an effort to refresh his memory (although he bungles the lyrics and ends up singing "the red thing's connected to my wristwatch").
- In the "Ceremonies of Light and Dark" episode of Babylon 5, a terrorist is singing a few lines of the song to his fellows, hinting at the details of a planned torture.
- In an episode of My Life as a Teenage Robot, Tuck attempts to reattach Jenny's body and sings an excerpt.
- In Invisible Monsters, Shannon tells the doctor to connect her jaw bone to her leg bone, but the doctor doesn't notice the reference.
- In the song "They Want EFX" by Das EFX, a modified version of Dem Bones is used.
- In the episode "Please Don't Touch the Dinosaurs" of Full House, Uncle Jesse sings Dem Bones while putting together a dinosaur model.
- John Fahey performs "Dry Bones in the Valley" on his album Old Fashioned Love and was later covered by Gastr del Sol on the album Upgrade & Afterlife.
- Bob Barner based a children's book of anatomy on this song.