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Yankee Doodle

[dood-l]

"Yankee Doodle" is a well-known US song, often sung patriotically today. It is the state anthem of Connecticut.

The first verse and refrain, as often sung today, run thus:

Yankee Doodle went to town,
A-Riding on a pony;
He stuck a feather in his cap,
And called it macaroni.

The Voice of America begins and ends all broadcasts with the interval signal of "Yankee Doodle".

History and lyrics

The song's origins were in a pre-Revolutionary War song originally by British military officers to mock the disheveled, disorganized colonial "Yankees" with whom they served in the French and Indian War. The word doodle first appeared in the early seventeenth century to mean a fool or simpleton, and is thought to derive from the Low German dudel or dödel, meaning "fool" or "simpleton". It is believed that the tune comes from the nursery rhyme Lucy Locket. The mention of 'Macaroni' is a reference to an over the top sense of fashion and the men who took part in it, whom were often referred to as the "Macaroni Club". One version of the Yankee Doodle lyrics is attributed to Doctor Richard Shuckburgh, a British Army surgeon, who wrote the song after witnessing the unprofessional appearance of Colonel Thomas Fitch, Jr., the son of Connecticut Governor Thomas Fitch, who arrived in Albany in 1755 with the Connecticut militia.

The Boston Journal of the Times wrote about a British band declaring "that Yankee Doodle song was the Capital Piece of their band music."

Early versions

The earliest known version of the lyrics comes from 1755 or 1758, as the date of origin is disputed ("Yankee Doodle Turns 250—Maybe", Associated Press, 4 July 2008):
Brother Ephraim sold his Cow
And bought him a Commission;
And then he went to Canada
To fight for the Nation;

But when Ephraim he came home
He proved an arrant Coward,
He wouldn't fight the Frenchmen there
For fear of being devour'd.
(Note that the sheet music which accompanies these lyrics reads, "The Words to be Sung through the Nose, & in the West Country drawl & dialect.")

The Ephraim referenced here was Ephraim Williams, a popularly known Colonel in the Massachusetts militia who was killed in the Battle of Lake George. He left his land and property to the founding of a school in Western Massachusetts, now known as Williams College.

The tune also appeared in 1762, in one of America's first comic operas, The Disappointment, with bawdy lyrics about the search for Blackbeard's buried treasure by a team from Philadelphia.

It has been reported that the British often marched to a version believed to be about a man named Thomas Ditson, of Billerica, Massachusetts. Ditson was tarred and feathered for attempting to buy a musket in Boston in March 1775, although he later fought at Concord:

Yankee Doodle came to town,
For to buy a firelock,
We will tar and feather him,
And so we will John Hancock.

For this reason, the town of Billerica claims to be the "home" of Yankee Doodle, and claims that at this point the Americans embraced the song and made it their own, turning it back on those who had used it to mock them. After the Battle of Lexington and Concord, a Boston newspaper reported: "Upon their return to Boston [pursued by the Minutemen], one [Briton] asked his brother officer how he liked the tune now, — 'Dang them,' returned he, 'they made us dance it till we were tired' — since which Yankee Doodle sounds less sweet to their ears."

The British responded with another set of lyrics following the Battle of Bunker Hill:

The seventeen of June, at Break of Day,
The Rebels they supriz'd us,
With their strong Works, which they'd thrown up,
To burn the Town and drive us.

Also on February 6, 1788. Massachusetts ratified the Constitution by a vote of 186 to 168. To the ringing of bells and the booming of cannons, the delegates trooped out of Brattle Street Church. Before many days had passed, the citizens sang their convention song to the tune of "Yankee Doodle." Here are the lyrics to their song...

The vention did in Boston meet,
The State House could not hold 'em
So then they went to Fed'ral Street,
And there the truth was told 'em...
And ev'ry morning went to prayer,
And then began disputing,
Till oppositions silenced were,
By arguments refuting.

Now politicians of all kinds,
Who are not yet decided,
May see how Yankees speak their minds,
And yet are not divided.
So here I end my Fed'ral song,
Composed of thirteen verses;
May agriculture flourish long
And commerce fill our purses!

Full version

A full version of the song, as it is known today, goes:

Fath'r and I went down to camp,
Along with Cap'n Goodin',
And there we saw the men and boys
As thick as hasty puddin'.

CHORUS:
Yankee Doodle keep it up,
Yankee Doodle dandy,
Mind the music and the step,
And with the girls be handy.

And there we saw a thousand men
As rich as Squire David,
And what they wasted every day,
I wish it could be saved.

CHORUS

The 'lasses they eat it every day,
Would keep a house a winter;
They have so much, that I'll be bound,
They eat it when they've mind ter.

CHORUS

And there I see a swamping gun
Large as a log of maple,
Upon a deuced little cart,
A load for father's cattle.

CHORUS

And every time they shoot it off,
It takes a horn of powder,
and makes a noise like father's gun,
Only a nation louder.

CHORUS

I went as nigh to one myself
As 'Siah's inderpinning;
And father went as nigh again,
I thought the deuce was in him.

CHORUS

Cousin Simon grew so bold,
I thought he would have cocked it;
It scared me so I shrinked it off
And hung by father's pocket.

CHORUS

And Cap'n Davis had a gun,
He kind of clapt his hand on't
And stuck a crooked stabbing iron
Upon the little end on't

CHORUS

And there I see a pumpkin shell
As big as mother's bason,
And every time they touched it off
They scampered like the nation.

CHORUS

I see a little barrel too,
The heads were made of leather;
They knocked on it with little clubs
And called the folks together.

CHORUS

And there was Cap'n Washington,
And gentle folks about him;
They say he's grown so 'tarnal proud
He will not ride without em'.

CHORUS

He got him on his meeting clothes,
Upon a slapping stallion;
He sat the world along in rows,
In hundreds and in millions.

CHORUS

The flaming ribbons in his hat,
They looked so tearing fine, ah,
I wanted dreadfully to get
To give to my Jemima.

CHORUS

I see another snarl of men
A digging graves they told me,
So 'tarnal long, so 'tarnal deep,
They 'tended they should hold me.

CHORUS

It scared me so, I hooked it off,
Nor stopped, as I remember,
Nor turned about till I got home,
Locked up in mother's chamber.

CHORUS

''Gen. George P. Morris

Civil war

During the American Civil War, Southerners added some new lines of their own:

Yankee Doodle had a mind
To whip the Southern rebels,
Because they did not choose to live
On codfish from his tables.

Yankee Doodle, fa, so la,
Yankee Doodle dandy,
And so to keep his courage up,
He took a drink of brandy.

Also popular in the South was a further customized version called "Dixie Doodle":

Dixie whipped old Yankee Doodle
Early in the morning.
Yankeedom had best look out
And take a timely warning.

Hurrah! for our Dixie land,
Hurrah! for our borders!
Southern boys to arms will stand
And whip the dark marauders.

During the Civil War, the Democratic party of 1864 adopted this version of the song as its anthem.

Yankee Doodle is no more,
Sunk his name and station;
Nigger Doodle takes his place,
And favors amalgamation.

CHORUS: Nigger Doodle's all the go,
Ebony shins and bandy,
"Loyal" people all must bow
To Nigger Doodle Dandy.

The white breed is under par
It lacks the rich a-romy,
Give us something black as tar,
Give us "Old Dahomey."

chorus

Blubber lips are killing sweet,
And kinky heads are splendid;
And oh, it makes such bully feet
To have the heels extended.

chorus

Variations and parodies

Many other variations and parodies have since arisen, including the one taught to schoolchildren today:

Yankee Doodle went to town
A-riding on a pony
He stuck a feather in his hat
And called it macaroni

Yankee Doodle, keep it up
Yankee Doodle dandy
Yankee Doodle round the world
As sweet as sugar candy

or

Yankee Doodle went to town
A-riding on a pony
He stuck a feather in his hat
And called it macaroni

Yankee Doodle, keep it up
Yankee Doodle dandy
Mind the music and the step
and with the girls be handy!

Some believe that these were alternative lyrics used by the British army during the revolutionary war. A "macaroni", in mid-18th-century , was a fashionable person; the joke being that the Yankees believed that a feather in the hat was sufficient to make them the height of fashion. Whether or not these were alternative lyrics sung in the British army, they were enthusiastically taken up by the Yanks themselves.

In the 1930s jazz vocalist Billie Holiday sung her own parodical version of the song, which began:

Yankee Doodle never went to town
I've just discovered the story was phony
Let me give you all the real low-down
He didn’t even own a pony

A more modern parody version:

Yankee Doodle went to London riding on a turtle
Turned the corner just in time to see a lady's girdle!

Yankee Doodle went to town riding on a baby
He accidentally turned around and saw a naked lady

Media

Popular culture

  • The Spirit of '76 (previously known as Yankee Doodle) is the most famous painting by Archibald MacNeal Willard
  • A variation of the song appears in the 1904 musical Little Johnny Jones by George M. Cohan.
  • The song featured in a famous sequence in the 1942 James Cagney film, Yankee Doodle Dandy.
  • The theme songs of the 1960s TV cartoon series Roger Ramjet and the children's TV show Barney & Friends are sung to the tune of Yankee Doodle. The kids on Roger Ramjet are named Yank, Doodle, Dan, and Dee.
  • One sketch in a 1970s episode of Sesame Street features Kermit the Frog reporting on Don Music's attempt to "write" Yankee Doodle, with both finding special trouble with the line "and called it macaroni".
  • A 1990's commercial for the popular Magna Doodle toy was released and was sung to the tune of Yankee Doodle.
  • In the musical Paint Your Wagon, the "Shivaree" concerning Ben Rumson's impending arranged marriage inspired a variation.
  • In America Sings, a Disneyland attraction made for the American Bicentennial, "Yankee Doodle" (with new lyrics) acts as a transition song between each scene with these lyrics, sung by a Bald Eagle named Sam, voiced by Burl Ives.
  • At the conclusion of the 1981 Wimbledon Championships, in which American tennis star John McEnroe had defeated his long-time rival Björn Borg, TV commentator Bud Collins took note of the July 4th holiday and also McEnroe's red-white-and-blue attire, and quipped "Stick a feather in his cap and call him 'McEnroe-ni'!"
  • In the 9th episode of season 2 of Country Fried Home Videos on CMT " Handini" is shown playing the song on "The Hands".
  • On The Alvin Show episode with the song "Yankee Doodle," Alvin sings the last line as "and called it spaghetti."
  • Ned Land, a character from the book Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, is said to have whistled the song.
  • Henri Vieuxtemps, a violinist-composer, wrote 'Souvenir D'Amerique "Yankee Doodle"', Variations Burlesques for Violin and Piano.
  • Sung on Full House on the episode The Play's The Thing in which Michelle tries out for the part of Yankee Doodle in her first grade play

Versions in other languages

Bengali lyrics

The song Laal jhuti kakatua (Bangla: লাল ঝুটি কাকাতুয়া), set to the Yankee Doodle/Lucy Locket melody, is a favorite among the Bengali people. It goes:

Bengali lyrics English translation
লাল ঝুটি কাকাতুয়া
ধরেছে যে বায়না
চাই তার লাল পিঠে
চিরুণী আর আয়না
A red-tufted cockatoo
has a whim
She wants her red ribbon
comb and mirror.

The Bengali Version of Yankee Doodle was composed for the Film "Badshah" in the year 1964. The song was sang By Ranu Mukherjee, daughter of famous Bengali singer Hemanta Mukherjee.

References

Bobrick, Benson. Angel in the Whirlwind Simon & Schuster, New York. ©1997, Bobrick. ISBN 0-6848-1060-3

External links

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