Did you ever think when a hearse goes by, that some day you are gonna die?
They’ll wrap you up in a big white sheet and throw you down about 500 feet.
The worms crawl in, the worms crawl out, the worms play peaknuckle on your snout.
And after a while, the snot comes out, and you spread it on bread, cuz that’s what you eat, when you’re dead!
My informant remembered this song, which she described as “a classic, grim piece of oral tradition,” and said that it brought back a lot of memories from her childhood. When she was little, the informant’s mother would sing this song whenever they passed a hearse, and the informant said it was always a very visceral for her, and that ‘the part about the snot coming out and eating it really disgusted me’. She learned it from her mom, and she thinks her grandfather used to sing it, because her mother said that it reminded her of her dad whenever a hearse drove by.
As my informant stated, this song is a ‘classic, grim piece of oral tradition,’ but also a particularly interesting one. Not only is it a song sung in America that openly addresses mortality and the fact that death is inevitable, but the intended audience is children. America is one of the countries that shuns, fears, and stigmatizes death the most—possibly why horror movies are one of the topmost grossing genres of film in the US—so it’s interesting that this song is a non-romanticized and very explicit recounting of what happens when you die (no heaven or angels here). Further, the lyrics and the major key of the song makes light of death altogether, making jovial and silly what Americans consider one of the most sorrowful and somber occasions ever. What else is interesting about this song, which coincides with the lyrics and the major key, is that the song is targeted for children. The song, which sounds very much like a camp song children would sing to laugh and gross each other out about a particularly macabre subject, could have been used as a fun and entertaining way to let children participate in something seemingly transgressive while also familiarizing them with the concept of death.