Friday, February 15, 2008

A Remarkable Young Man Is He

This morning, as my mind wandered (where it will go), a snatch of melody entered the Jingo cranium. (This is not quite as pleasant as a melody of snatch, but ah well.)

It was a tune that I last heard sometime in 1964, from a single in my parents' collection. Astonishing that it has remained with me all these years. The melody is obviously very catchy -- I suspect it of being adapted from another tune. The lyric (as best I can remember it) goes:
John F. Kennedy
A remarkable young man is he
At age forty-three
Elected to the Presidency

He served his country proudly
And when the war was won
This hero of the Solomons
Went on to Washington.

(Repeat chorus)

He was born in Massachusetts
In the city of Brookline
And tumpty-tumpty-tumpty tum
On PT One-Oh-Nine....
That's a much as I can reconstruct, from memory and a Google search.

But what a remarkable little ditty, no? From internal evidence, it's not a campaign song -- it must have been written after Kennedy's election, and I don't remember it referring to any assassination, although I could be wrong about that.

Some time ago, Hilary Clinton's campaign held an online survey to choose her campaign song -- and the result pretty much lost her my vote.

When did we stop coming up with original campaign songs? I suspect the shattering of the national musical aesthetic into a million shards of incompatible tastes and genres might have had something to do with it: It's hard to imagine a single song in a genre that would appeal to the public mind at large. A country campaign song? A hip-hop tune? An aria? You see the problem.

But you see, we once had an Official Musical Language that was OK for everybody to like -- or at least tolerate:

Later Edit: Those are some graphics, huh? And they're completely, unutterably pre-ironic! The world really did once look like that!


Boldly Serving Up Wheat Grass said...

I can't see the (presumably) video since out IT guy installed some new asinine Internet filter, but... I had an uncle who, as a teenager, sent JFK some suggestions for campaing songs. JFK wrote back on DNC letterhead thanking my uncle (politely rejecting the ideas). But he signed the letter and the envelope, both of which were passed down to me.

Anonymous said...

Sorry, i can't think in pre-ironic terms. Can't unring that bell, esp. when hearing Kennedy described as "young enough to do."

Unknown said...

Dead shame, with this crowd's rhyming potential:

Barak- Iraq...Building block...Join the flock...never smoked crock...

McCain- Complain...Brain...Lover's Lane...see us through/that onetime POW...

Hillary-, really...

Neddie said...

Clinton/squintin'... Unstintin'... Not a lot of hope there, is there.

Yikes. Glad it's not my job.

(He said, taking it up anyway...)

A woman for our times, that is our Hillary
She almost never smells like a distillery
A worker is our Clinton
She puts in hours unstintin'
As C-in-C she'll bring home the artillery!

Unknown said...

Without a drawn breath and without a comma,
Our country proclaims it's your time, young Obama!
You'll give us statesman by all means iconic,
Return us to times that were far less ironic!

Your views flit round like a Regal Fritillary?
We'd rather see that than a certain Queen Hillary.
You've barely left Weblos, the geezers complain?
Sooner that, than a march to Tehran with McCain.

"He's different! A healer!" the voters proclaim.
Transcendent and healing, but one thing's the same:
We stare at the names behind voting booth's cover
And vote for Barak, as a vote 'gainst the other.

Oh, shit. That's ironic.

Anonymous said...

That's a great piece of campaign arcania. The most surprising thing about the song to me is that it refers to the controversy regarding Kennedy's religion. That seems odd by today's standards.
btw, It is nice to see that the Neddie crowd is pro-Obama.

JD said...

For some reason the JFK song scans like a Gilbert and Sullivan adaptation to me, probably the "A remarkable young man is he"....

Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

It's not just music that's changed. It's politics. A timely demonstration from Cal Thomas's latest column(y):

One of the Kennedy campaign songs in 1960 was "High Hopes." The original lyrics of the song include the line "He had high apple pie, in the sky hopes." That could describe Barack Obama.

Anonymous said...

Damn, that Kennedy song was catchy. Now I can't get rid of it...

Anonymous said...

Funny, but that song recurs in my mind as well. My recollection is as follows:

John F. Kennedy, remarkable young man was he,
at age 43, elected to the Presidency.

He was born in 1917, the second child of nine, in the state of Massachusets in the city of Brookline,

His Grandad was a Mayor, his Dad ambassador, til he became the president, number 34.


Commander of a PT boat, he won the purple heart,
He served his country proudly, and bravely did his part...(can't remember this stanza)...and when the war was won, the hero of the Solomons went on to Washington.


I drove my mother crazy playing this song on my old 45 player until it disappeared one day. The flip side of that 45 was a song about George Washington, the lyrics I largely remember but will spare you!

Anonymous said...

John F. Kennedy, a remarkable young man is he,
At age 43 elected to the Presidency.

He was born in 1917, the second child of 9,
In the state of Massachusetts, in the city of Brookline.
His granddad was a mayor, his dad ambassador;
He graduated Harvard, then gave service in the war.

As commander of a PT boat, he got the Purple Heart.
He was a combat hero and he bravely did his part.
He served his country proudly and when the war was won,
The hero of the Solomons went on to Washington.

Then for 3 terms he served the House of Representatives;
And after that a Senator; he gave all he could give.
As Senator this Democrat worked harder and did strive,
Til he became the President, number 35.

Neddie said...

Anonymous 1 and Anonymous 2: I don't know if you're the same person, but THANK YOU! You've preserved for history this wonderfully weird little song, and I thank you for it!

YellowCat said...

Okay, so I'm sitting in the chair at the salon getting my roots done & my crazy stylist starts singing this song about JFK & wants to know if I've ever heard it & if so, do I remember who did it? Well, I had never heard it befor & now cannot get it out of my head... & then I found you! Did you ever find out who did it? I MUST find a copy of it! Help!

Anonymous said...

Here is some more usueless info on the Kennedy song. The 45 RPM song about which you all have been chatting was called "Sing A Song Of Presidents."

It was part of a series of educational children's records chronicaling the history and exploits of all the US Presidents from Washington through Kennedy who was, at the time of the release of the record, the current Commander in Chief.

The flip side of the 45 was titled "Hail to George Washington." It had lyrics that included the following:

"George Washington was both so brave and so fine,

that in seventeen-hundred and eighty-y nine,

all the people decided that he was so grand

that they made him first President of the land.

All hail to George Washington leader of men. All hail to this leader of men."

So, the Kennedy song was not a campaign piece, but actually an educational children's song. It originally came out before 1963 (pre-assasination) which accounts for the lyrics which stated: "a remarkable young man IS he."

One other note you all might enjoy is that the melody was adapted from an old Irish folk song. If you see the movie "The Gangs of New York," you can hear the instrumental near the end of the film as underscoring.

Best regards,


seanx said...

I woke up this morning with the song in my head, and proceeded to try to find the lyrics. As I remember it, The first verse went:

"John F. Kennedy, remarkable Young Man boy was he"

which is possible given that I was born in 1965, two years after his asassination.

A bit of interest: my father must have sung this song a lot around the house, because I grew up thinking he made it up himself. I'm a wee bit disappointed to know he didn't. sigh.

Unknown said...

These lyrics are(were?) from a 45 single that I remember buying at the world's fair at a Kennedy exhibit. All I could remember was the chorus line. Thanks for filling in some of the others!

Anonymous said...

We had this record as children.

The George Washington song also included:

Corwallis the Englishman had to admit

That he was defeated and so he retreated

And England retired and quit!

When they sang "quit" we would all yell "shit!"

Flanky said...

I thought I was the only person in the world with that JFK 45 stuck in my head for 40 years. I pulled it out while my son was working on a report and the fam was duly amazed. Amazing the stuff that will stick in our minds....

Anonymous said...

Today I visited the John F. Kennedy Library and Musuem in MA and this song came flooding back to me...thanks cuz I didn't want to think I am losing my mind!!

Anonymous said...

I am amazed and grateful that I am not the only one on the planet who remembers this song!! I have been googleing and searching for it now for hours. So glad I found this blog and all the comments which really helped me fill in a few of the lines! I am homeschooling three of my boys and wanted to find the song to help them learn about Kennedy. It has been stuck in my head for 40 years as well!! Thanks for the help!

Anonymous said...

I still have this record. My brother and I listened to it over and over and over (I was born in 1970). The record (45) has the following information:
Peter Pan Players
John F. Kennedy
Peter Pan Players and Orchestra
45-593-B (The A side is George Washington) I don't remember the GW song at all, because I was always playing the JFK side. The label also says it was manufactured by Synthetics Plastics, Co., Newark, N.J. U.S.A. Non-Breakable (with normal use) It also has two pictures of sidewheel steamers on it - that i show I knew it was the JFK record before I could read! I also have Frankie the Brave Fireman - great song (at least it was when I was 3)

YellowCat said...

To anyone out there who has the JFK record... please, I beg of you to burn me a copy... I have a friend who needs it! contact me & we'll talk.... please....

Chick of All Trades said...

Hey, thanks for your verse to this song! Here is the verse I remember...

John F. Kennedy, a remarkable young man is he,
At age 43 elected to the presidency!
He was born in 1917, the 2nd child of 9,
In the state of Massachusetts, in the city of Brookline,
His grandad was a mayor, his dad ambassador,
He graduated Harvard and gave service in the war!

Anonymous said...

We loved this song!! Ours was on the back side of the Davy Crockett song.

My sister and I can still sing it 40 years later! We thought we were the only ones who knew it.

Unknown said...

Found it! Starts at 9:48,Item,3251455906.html

Anonymous said...

Wow! I was a toddler and remember marching around the boxed record player listening to this song. Thanks for the memories!

Julianne Shinto said...

I remembered all of the lyrics these many years, I had a 45RPM which my mother purchased in 1969 at Woolworth--obviously long gone. I greatly thank Chris for posting the link!

Anonymous said...

Here's a link to the JFK song...

Stephen A "Sid" Cassidy said...

My sister just wrote a note to our siblings about this song as she passed through Brookline this weekend ... and yes ... we clearly remember the tune and most of the lyrics ... I'm sure it was not the only Peter Pan Record we had, but it was certainly the most played ... I am almost certain it was in no way a campaign song, but more a celebration of his attaining the highest office in the land ... and the version I just listened to that Chris posted almost seems a little different than the version I remember....thinking it was a bit faster ... then again, that could have been our state of the art turntable :)

Anonymous said...

His Grandad was a mayor,
His Dad Ambassador.
He Graduated Harvard
Then gave service in the war.

As commander of a PT boat
He got/won the purple heart
Da Da Da Da Da Da Da Da Da
... he bravely did his part.

Just a few more lines you forgot.

jeffpickens said...

Here it is, with all lyrics:

Anonymous said...

Thanks for posting this..had it in my head for days. I think Johnny Appleseed was on the other side of our record. Its a great little tune but it does make ya a little nuts if it gets stuck in your head.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for posting this..had it in my head for days. I think Johnny Appleseed was on the other side of our record. Its a great little tune but it does make ya a little nuts if it gets stuck in your head.

Anonymous said...

I have the record too. I sing it all the time to my kids, they think I am crazy. It's so glad to know there are others who remember it as well!! Ha, this just made my day!! Amy

AnonymousB said...

More from B side (approximately):

When the cry for freedom rang out through the land
They all looked for someone to take command
And then from Virginia a hero came
All hail to his glory, all hail to his name

All hail to George Washington, leader of men
The lobbyists'(?) favorite and president #1
Hail to this leader of men

In seventeen hundred and seventy-five
George Washington promised that he would strive
To lead us to victory when all was done
And then by the year 1781
Cornwallis the Englishman had to admit
That he was defeated, and so he retreated
So England retired and quit

He was so admired(?) in his old day
They call him the father of our USA
George Washington was one so great and so fine
In seventeen hundred and eighty-nine
All the people decided that he was so grand
That they made him first president of the land