USC Digital Folklore Archives / Posts Tagged ‘Public Mistrust’
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Musical

“Three Prominent Bastards Are We” Song from 1930s

The informant has the lyrics to a popular folk song of the 1930s that his father would sing to him. The lyrics were written on an old piece of paper for years (which has survived due to lamination). The following are lyrics to a poem that expresses public cynicism towards  bankers and politicians after the 1929 Great Crash of the United States economy and the subsequent Great Depression. The poem was never formally published and copyrighted, but the lyrics spread by word of mouth and performances. It has never been confirmed, but popular assumption is that the song was written by Ogden Nash and is called “Three Prominent Bastards Are We!” (although the informants’ lyrics were labeled “Butcher, Baker, Candlestick Maker”.


 

Where did you find this song?

TS: My father took me out…. when I was young…and we heard this song. I asked him what it was about, and he told me, then wrote down the words.

How long have you had that piece of paper with the lyrics on it?

TS: Oh, that’s not the original one. The original one was very worn, so my mother rewrote it on another paper. I wish I had the original one though. Would’ve meant a lot.


 

Verse: I’m an autocratic figure in these democratic states,

A dandy demonstration of hereditary traits.

As the children of the baker bake delicious breads,

As the sons of Casanova fill the most exclusive beds,

As the Barrymores and Roosevelts and others I could name

Inherited the talents that perpetuate their fame,

My position in the structure of society I owe

To the qualities my parents bequeathed me long ago.

My father was a gentleman and musical to boot.

He used to play piano in a house of ill repute.

The Madam was a lady and a credit to her cult,

She enjoyed my father’s playing and I was the result.

So my Daddy and my Mummy are the ones I have to thank

That I’m Chairman of the Board of the National Silly Bank.

 

Chorus: oh, our parents forgot to get married.

Our parents forgot to get wed.

Did a wedding bell chime, it was always time

When our parents were somewhere in bed.

Then all thanks to our kind loving parents.

We are kings in the land of the free.

Your banker, your broker, your Washington joker,

Three prominent bastards are we, tra la,

Three prominent bastards are we!

 

Verse: In a cozy little farmhouse in a cozy little dell,

A dear old-fashioned farmer and his daughter used to dwell.

She was pretty, she was charming, she was tender, she was mild,

And her sympathy was such that she was frequently with child.

The year her hospitality attained a record high

She became the happy mother of an infant which was I.

Whenever she was gloomy, I could always make her grin,

By childishly inquiring who my daddy could’ve been.

The hired man was favored by the girls in Mummy’s set,

And a traveling man from Scranton was an even money bet.

But such were Mother’s motives and such was her allure,

That even Roger Babson wasn’t sure.

Well, I took my mother’s morals and I took my daddy’s crust,

And I grew to be the founder of the New York Blanker’s Trust.

 

Chorus: oh, our parents forgot to get married.

Our parents forgot to get wed.

Did a wedding bell chime, it was always time

When our parents were somewhere in bed.

Then all thanks to our kind loving parents.

We are kings in the land of the free.

Your banker, your broker, your Washington joker,

Three prominent bastards are we, tra la,

Three prominent bastards are we!

 

Verse: In a torrid penal chain gang on a dusty southern road

My late lamented daddy has his permanent abode.

Now some were there for stealing, but my daddy’s only fault

Was an overwhelming tendency for criminal assault.

His philosophy and quite free from moral taint;

Seduction is for sissies, but a he-man wants his rape.

Daddy’s total list of victims was embarrassingly rich,

And one of them was Mother, but he couldn’t tell me which.

Well, I didn’t go to college but I got me a degree.

I reckon I’m the model of a perfect S.O.B.,

I’m a debit to my country but a credit to my Dad,

The most expensive senator the country ever had.

I remember Daddy’s warning—that that raping is a crime,

Unless you rape the voters, a million at a time.

 

Chorus: oh, our parents forgot to get married.

Our parents forgot to get wed.

Did a wedding bell chime, it was always time

When our parents were somewhere in bed.

Then all thanks to our kind loving parents.

We are kings in the land of the free.

Your banker, your broker, your Washington joker,

Three prominent bastards are we, tra la,

Three prominent bastards are we!

 

Verse: I’m an ordinary figure in these democratic states,

A pathetic demonstration of hereditary traits.

As the children of the cop possess the flattest kind of feet,

As the daughter of the floosie has a waggle to her seat,

My position at the bottom of society I owe

To the qualities my parents bequeathed me long ago.

My father was a married man and, what is even more,

He was married to my mother—a fact which I deplore.

I was born in holy wedlock, consequently by and by.

I was rooked by bastard who had plunder in his eye.

I invested, I deposited, I voted every fall,

And I saved up every penny and the bastards took it all.

At last I’ve learned my lesson, and I’m on the proper track,

I’m a self-appointed bastard and I’M GOING TO GET IT BACK.

 

Chorus: oh, our parents forgot to get married.

Our parents forgot to get wed.

Did a wedding bell chime, it was always time

When our parents were somewhere in bed.

Then all thanks to our kind loving parents.

We are kings in the land of the free.

Your banker, your broker, your Washington joker,

Three prominent bastards are we, tra la,

Three prominent bastards are we!

 

 

A recorded version of the song can be heard here

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