"Tie Me Kangaroo Down, Sport" is a song written by Rolf Harris in 1957 which became a hit across the world in the 1960s. Inspired by Harry Belafonte's calypsos, it is about an Australian stockman on his deathbed. The song is one of the best known and most successful Australian songs.
Harris offered four unknown backing musicians 10 percent of the royalties for the song, but they decided to take a recording fee of 28 pounds between them because they thought the song would be a flop.
This recording of the song peaked at #3 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in the United States in 1963; the song also spent three weeks atop the adult contemporary chart. Harris re-recorded it along with The Wiggles in 2005. It is still popular today as a children's song.
The lyrics of the song have also been compared to a poem by Australian poet Richard H. Kendall whose work includes a poem called "On Preston Bar" which features a pet wallaby called "Tymie". In the poem Tymie seeks to escape from his master, Mr Roberts.
The fourth verse was removed circa 1960, because of its use of the word Abo, a now offensive slang term for Aboriginal Australians, and because of its implied racist context. The lyrics of this verse (not found on Rolf Harris' official website) are as follows:
Let me Abos go loose, Bruce
Let me Abos go loose
They're of no further use, Bruce
So let me Abos go loose.
The verse appears to make light of Aboriginal servitude and captivity in that the stockman emancipated his captives only at his death, when they were "of no further use" to him (compare George Washington's of his slaves by will rather than during his lifetime). In addition, because the rest of the song refers to animals in captivity, some listeners might infer a comparison of Indigenous Australians to animals or their characterization as subhuman. The offending verse did not feature in later versions of the song. In 2006 Harris expressed his regret about the original lyrics.