Song – California

Joy to the World – Barney version

Joy to the world, Barney’s dead.

We barbequed his head!

What happened to his body

We flushed it down the potty

And round and round it goes,

And round and round it goes,

And round and round, and round it goes.

This gruesome song is sung to the tune of the well known Christmas carol “Joy to the World.”  It makes reference to the children’s character of Barney pictured to the right.  Generally aimed at younger audiences, Barney is a large purple dinosaur who stars in his own television show called Barney and Friends. In this show, Barney and various other dinosaurs lead a class full of kids through various educational activities.

I learned this song sometime during preschool, and have not forgotten it since.  This is possibly because of the familiarity and commonness of the tune “Joy to the World;” it is played everywhere during the Christmas season, and many families including my own even sing it themselves.  Whenever I hear the “real” song, I am reminded of the first version I learned in preschool.  I attended a Lutheran preschool in Palos Verdes, California for two years, where this song was widespread.  I presume it spread during the Christmas season when they teachers tried to teach us traditional Christmas carols. I accepted the song with great glee, and even recall teaching it to my friends at my church in Hermosa Beach.  In this way I believe I helped spread this particular piece of folklore.  It is strange that my church friends did not know this song; while my cousins did; my cousins were much farther away than my church friends.  However, I suspect their lack of knowledge was because their particular group did not accept this song.  I have even talked with a friend who has grown up in Portland, Oregon.  The fact that even she knew this song shows the true widespread nature of this parody.

What is interesting is that even though I learned it during preschool, the entire television series itself is produced to appeal to preschoolers.  I even remember watching the show myself with great interest.  If I remember correctly, I even performed some of the activities portrayed in the show on my own with my mother.  The show was or significant educational value – during the program Barney led the kids through a serious of scholastic activities.  Why did I so readily accept this song which described the gruesome cannibalism of one of my television idols?  To this day I do not know.  However, I think that I may have learned this during the second year or preschool, or sometime after I had stopped watching the show.  Trying to appear cool in the presence of my friends and due to the fickle nature of children, perhaps I was more ready to turn on the innocent character of Barney then.

The creation of this song could represent a subtle rebellion against the soft, educational, utopian image as presented by Barney.  Known for his shows with overly enthusiastic and happy children, Barney ended every episode by singing the infamous “Barney Song,” which was basically a repetition of the line “I love you, you love me, we’re one happy family,” which then initiated a large group hug.  It also shows the ridiculing nature of children.  At the time I learned it, many children still adored Barney and his cast of characters.  For this very reason, we enjoyed tormenting the other children by singing this twisted song in front of them.  Perhaps we saw it as a way of separating ourselves, four year olds in pre-kindergarten, from the three year olds in the first year of preschool.  Through this unique folk song we can see not only the rebellious but also the antagonistic side of children.

Strangely enough, this bizarre song is actually acknowledged in print.  In a book entitled Greasy Grimy Gopher Guts: the Subversive Folklore of Children, authors Josepha Sherman and T. K. F. Weisskopf explore various “gross-out” rhymes.  Published in 1995 by August House Publishers, this book contains the modified Barney song in the section labeled “Dealing with Authority.”  This book has also been reviewed in prominent publications such as The Journal of American Folklore, where it appeared in Vol. 110, No. 435.  In the article, published by the University of Illinois Press on behalf of The Journal of American Folklore, the book was found to be both humorous and informative, touching on a side of folklore not often explored by modern folklore research.