Tag Archives: song

Thanksgiving Song – “I Heard Mr Turkey Say”

Song Lyrics Transcribed from Informant

I heard Mr. Turkey say

gobble, gobble, gobble

Soon will be Thanksgiving day

gobble, gobble, gobble

People say it is such fun

But I know that I must run

and hide until the day is done

gobble, gobble, gobble

Context

My informant learned this song from her mother at an early age, and would sing it in November around Thanksgiving. When asked how she interpreted the song she said she that it was about a “Mr. Turkey” trying to escape the fate of many turkeys on Thanksgiving. She remarked that compared to Christmas and even Halloween, there weren’t a lot of Thanksgiving songs, but even though she learned the song from her German-Russian mother in North Dakota, she wasn’t certain that the song was necessarily invented by German-Russians.

My Analysis

I find this song to be really catchy, and I think it’s fun that it’s Thanksgiving-themed as that’s not necessarily a super-popular subject matter for musical composers. Overall, it’s a fun song about a Turkey trying to hide during Thanksgiving, and features a fun onamonapia with the repeated “gobble, gobble, gobble.” I agree with my informant that the song maybe wasn’t entirely invented in North Dakota, but I was unable to find a source of where or how the song was made.

Song Sung by Informant

Happy Birthday Song

Main Piece: Happy Birthday Song

“Happy birthday, happy happy birthday, we’re in love with you, so in love with you,

May happiness be near throughout the coming year 

And all the best to you and all the best to you

May you keep on smiling everyday

And all your troubles fade away 

And may you never ever ever be blue

So happy birthday (name) 

Happy happy birthday to youuu youuuuu youuuuuuuuu!”

Background Information:

This was taught to L when she was a child by her Uncle and Aunt. They made it up because they thought that the normal happy birthday song was much too dull.

Context of the Performance:

This is sung when it is somebody’s birthday at the same time as when people would normally sing the well known happy birthday song. Usually, this occurs when the birthday cake is brought out to the person whose birthday it is.

My Thoughts:

I like this version of the happy birthday song better than the well known version of the happy birthday song because it is more lively and interesting. It is a little bit more complex than the original version of the happy birthday song; however, it is not overly complicated and still easy for people to learn in a short period of time. Additionally, this song mentions that the singers are in love with the birthday recipient and therefore I presume that it is only sung to people that the birthday recipient is very close with because singing this birthday song to somebody that you are not familiar with would not be as comfortable.

“The Johnson Boys” Campfire Song

Context:

KR’s grandfather was a Scoutmaster in Ontario who led Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts on camping trips and also enjoyed going camping with his own family. He remembers this piece as one of the songs his grandfather used to sing around the campfire with them.

Main Piece:

“The Johnson Boys”

Verse 1:  
Oh, the Johnson boys, the Johnson boys,
They lived on a mill on the side of the hill,
Verse 2:
Oohh, the Johnson boys, the Johnson boys,
They lived on a mill on the side of the hill,
Verse 3:
Ooohhhhh, the Johnson boys, the Johnson boys,
They lived on a mill on the side of the hill.

Continue ad infinitum, with the “oh” being drawn out longer with each repetition of the verse.

Analysis:

KR remembers “The Johnson Boys,” as “the song with one hundred thousand verses.” He says it’s, “a fun little song that everyone gets to chime in on,” since the lyrics were easy to remember and stretching out the “oh” always made the kids laugh. This song fulfills the classic roles of a good campfire song: something easy to pick up and remember, but with a fun twist to entertain the children. Since KR’s grandfather was a scout leader, the trips he led were mainly composed of children, it makes sense that he would have a library of these songs that are easily accessible for anyone.

This facet of folk song is interesting to me because while it is folk culture, it is also in some ways an institutionally pushed song. By this I do not mean that it was integrated into standardized education, or utilized by the government/corporations, but it significantly differs from some other children’s songs because it is a song that was taught to children by adults, and generally performed between children and adults. Often, folkloric children’s chants and songs evolve within the young population, perhaps even against the will of the adults surrounding them. But this song, and other campfire songs like it, are more of a bridge between the cultural worlds of the child and the adult leaders. They are neither the children’s song (because the children did not create it or claim it as their own to change and sing on their own) but also not a song for the adults (because the adults sing it primarily for the enjoyment of the children).

Slovenian Grandma Song

This is a song that was collected from H, a freshman whose family has Slovenian roots on his dad’s side. This song is one that they used to sing to their grandma as kids, as did their grandma to her grandmother before them.

Granny’s in the cellar

Lordy can’t you smell’er

Cooking pancakes on a dirty stoooove

Her eyes are full of matter

And it’s dripping in the batter

THERE’S A LONG THING HANGING FROM HER NOSE

From her noooose

to her tooooes

there’s a long thing hanging from her NOSE!

This is a goofy song that talks of a grandma cooking pancakes in a dingy cellar, presumably while she is sick with crusty eyes and snot dripping from her nose. Although it picks fun at a grandma, it also fosters a bond between them and effectively eradicates the barrier between an elderly person and a child. As Slovenia is a country with many stories of witchcraft, this song could also be referencing a witch cooking some food or brewing potions, though adapted to be more kid-friendly.

Personally, I find this song quite endearing, as did H’s family, since they continued singing the song after it was passed down to him from his grandma. Instead of painting witches in a negative light or viewing grandmas as old and crippled, this song familiarized them for the children and helped dispel the negative stigmas that usually surround witches by poking fun at their physical appearance.

Birthday Dirge Variation

This is a version of the Birthday Dirge adapted by the family of a close friend. They have been singing it for over two decades, and it is meant to be sung in a somber tone at a largo tempo. The lyrics are as follows:

Grief and sorrow fill the air

People dying everywhere

Happy birthday

Happy birthday

This variation of the birthday dirge is sung much slower than other, more popular renditions of the piece. The family also sings it after the traditional happy birthday song, with the parents leading the pace. This song order really emphasizes the juxtaposition between the dirge, which talks of gloom and despair, and the upbeat celebratory song, and this difference becomes very comical. Though other renditions of the birthday dirge include these lines individually, they are not sung together. As it stands, this is a modification of the song’s most popular versions.


They also sing this song for people outside their family, if they are fortunate enough to spend their birthday week within the family’s home. It is often shocking for people hearing the song for the first time, but it soon becomes a part of the birthday celebration that others start looking forward to. I personally was very bewildered when I first witnessed the birthday dirge performance, as I had never heard of people intentionally speaking of death and sorrow during a birthday. However, I grew to enjoy it and I even participate in singing the dirge when I get the chance.

For alternate versions of the birthday dirge, see:

Brendan, and Brendan. “The Birthday Dirge.” ThereItIs.org, 12 May 2015, https://thereitis.org/the-birthday-dirge/.