Song Parodies

The informant is a caucasian female in her 50s. She was born and raised in England. She, and her three siblings, were raised as orthodox jews. After university, the informant moved to Northern California for graduate school. She later moved to Los Angeles, where she now resides. The informant trained in school as a biologist, but switched to journalism and now works for a large newspaper. She is divorced with one child.

Parody of National Anthem:

The informant heard this parody from her father from a very early age. She would sing it with her siblings and friends. She would sing sometimes at the beginning of films, when the national anthem was played, or in morning assembly at school. The song is sung not in a mean way, but to poke fun at the institution of the monarchy, to show laughing disrespect.


God shave our gracious queen,

God shave our noble queen,

God shave our queen.

Don’t let her whiskers grow,

That wouldn’t be right you know.

God shave our gracious queen,

God shave our queen.

Analysis: This parody represents a certain attitude towards the British monarchy. The informant comes from a liberal academic middle class family. Such people are generally less inclined to be huge supporters of the monarchical institution. They would be likely to adopt an attitude of disrespect and defiance towards the crown. But the song is not spiteful or truly hurtful, projecting a more bemused, and perhaps even affectionate, attitude towards the monarchy, even while viewing it as an institution to make fun of. The parody also represents child folklore and the tendency to explore the forbidden and ridiculous. The children’s song deals with the idea of rebellion against state institution, in an extremely watered down version, by poking gentle fun at the Queen.

Christmas Carol Parodies:

The informant learned these two christmas carol parodies in grade school from her older brother, who learned it from friends. She would sing them with her siblings and friends whenever the tunes came on the radio or the carols were sung in morning assembly. The informant would sing the parodies at home to her parents, who were amused by the parodies.

We Three Kings Parody Lyrics:

We three kings of Orient are,

Tried to light a rubber cigar,

It was loaded and exploded,

Now we’re on yonder star,

Oh, oh, star of wonder, star of light,

Star that sets your pants alight,

Then proceeding through the ceiling,

Guided by thy perfect light.

Good King Wenceslas Parody Lyrics:

Good king Wenceslas looked out,

On the feast of stephen,

Snowball hit him on the snout,

And made it all uneven,

Brightly shone his conk that night,

Though the pain was cruel,

‘Til the doctor came in sight,

Riding on a mule.

Analysis: These two parodies are interesting because they are pseudo-christmas carols being performed in an Orthodox Jewish household. The face that they are parodies probably contributes to their acceptance within the informant’s family: a parody implies poking fun at the subject, so it would have been more acceptable to sing in a household that did not celebrate than traditional secular carols. Also, the English schooling system requires the teaching of religion to all students. It would be impossible for her parents to prevent the informant’s exposure to Christianity, so a greater acceptance of pieces of Christian culture picked up would not be unexpected. These parodies are also part of the trend for children to subvert and push the boundaries of their expected existence. The carol parodies are a subversion of an established tradition, in this case even connected with religion, and use it to explore the ridiculous, rebellious, and off-limits. In “We Three Kings”, the parody refers not only to smoking and pants, which in Britain refers to underwear, but also alludes to violence with “loaded and exploded”. “Good King Wenceslas” picks up similar threads in exploring the physical violence in his nose being struck, but also rebellion by mocking a esteemed figure, designated as “king”.

Folk Song Parody:

The informant learned this song parody from her parents, who were both members of the Communist party in the late 40s, early 50s. They learned this song while at Communist meetings. The song itself is a parody on the English folk song “Green grow the rushes, O”. The informant learned this original version in school choir in grade school, along with other traditional songs. This Communist parody would be sung by the informant’s family most commonly during passover, after the dinner ceremony had concluded. The Passover meal would be concluded by singing traditional songs in Hebrew as well as folk songs added to the family canon along the years. The informant still sings this song at family passovers. The structure of the song, cumulative ascending counting, is similar to a Jewish song, “who knows one”, traditionally sung in hebrew at Passover. The informant herself does not remember all of the words. Her brothers do remember all of it, however, both being of a more political bent.


I’ll sing you one, O,

Red fly the banners, O,

What is your one, O,

One is worker’s unity and ever more shall be so,

I’ll sing you two, O,

Red fly the banners, O,

What is your two, O,

Two two the workers hands working for his living, O

One is worker’s unity and ever more shall be so

(The song’s structure carries on the same through each number up to 13. For each verse the relevant number is substituted into the lyrics. Each number sequence is repeated, with each verse getting longer and longer.)

Three three the rights of man (or the alternative wording – Three three bread, land, and peace)

Five for the years of the five year plan and four for the four years taken

(The song carries on up until 13, but the informant cannot recall the other number verses beyond here.)

Analysis: This song, while a parody, is more of a reinterpretation than a satire. The Communist party in Britain used a traditional folk tune, laying their own lyrics over it, to disseminate the ideas and ideals of the party. As a well known melody already, the reuse of the music would make the song easier to learn and remember. The use of ascending numbers and repetition probably also lends to the song’s ability to be easily learned. This pattern is quite common among folk music, such as the traditional Jewish song mentioned by the informant. The informant’s family’s habit of picking up songs such as this and incorporating them into the Passover ceremony is quite interesting. The family sings secular, even political, songs in a very religious setting. This indicates a fluid attitude towards the performance of religion, even within an orthodox family. It is an example of how identity can be established and reinforced through the use of folklore. In this case, the informant’s jewish identity and more liberal political bent are melded together through the performance of the song parody at Passover.