Sunday, October 27, 2013

My Top Ten Favorite Funny Songs

When you sing like I do, you go for funny. No one wants to hear a love song from a voice that sounds like fingernails on a chalkboard.  I therefore borrowed the Richard Harris talk-singing technique, the only thing that worked for people with raggedy voices before we got those sound systems that automatically correct your pitch if you get lost along the way.  I just love those things, but it does seem like cheating somehow.  So I've always kept an assortment of funny songs in my song bag, though, just in case I was playing guitar and someone mistook me for a singer. 

So, here, in no particular order, are my top ten favorite funny or novelty songs (with links to examples of redentions of same) designed to make you a wildly popular entertainer with children and drunks.

  1. The Boa Constrictor Song - Shel Silverstein's masterful combination of horror, humor and general grossitude. Extremely popular at summer camps, day care centers and old folks homes. Shel also wrote two other popular novelty tunes - "A Boy Named Sue" and "Cover of the Rolling Stone" - as well as a string of popular childrens' poem books beginning with "Where the Sidewalk Ends" which won an award or two. The version here is by Shel Silverstein himself  and includes several of his other kids songs as well.
  2. Dead Skunk in the Middle of the Road - Loudan Wainright III's paean to noxious road kill always gets a sing-along started. I'm not sure why, but children and drunks seem to like singing the world stinkin' very loudly for some reason. Here the inimitable Mr. Wainright sings his classic song live in concert.
  3. That's How the Yodel was Born - Riders in the Sky's Ranger Doug demonstrates the high and lonesome sound made by an unfortunate cowboy who landed a bit far forward on the saddle of his bucking bronc on this painful song. In this instance, yodeling will really make you cringe once you hear how it came about.
  4. Apeman - The Kinks did some really interesting and fun songs during their erratic career. This one was my favorite. It's not screamingly hilarious, but it is a lot of fun to sing. This version is an in-concert recording.
  5. Boomer Johnson - I first heard this cowboy poem about a murderous range cook on Garrison Keillor's A Prairie Home Companion radio show. I have a tape around here somewhere and got the words and music from that. I found mostly recitations. This version uses a slightly different tune than I do, but you get the idea. Stick around through all the verses for the most satisfying ending I ever heard for a song about a bad man.
  6. When I Was a Dinosaur - This fun song is by the duo, Trout Fishing in America. Keith Grimwood the short and substantial standup bass player and Ezra Idlet, the tall lanky guitar player play eclectic folk/rock hits to audiences of all ages. They're one of the few night club acts that can get away with playing Teddy Bear's Picnic at 2am to a bunch of drunks and get a wild round of applause. This song is always a hit with 5 year olds. 
  7. Waltzing With Bears - My daughter and I used to sing this song together. It's a classic kids song and went immediately to folk status and collected several dozen new verses along the way and the beauty is that there is always room for new and ever more scurrilous verses if you care to add some.
  8. Mad Dogs and Englishmen - This classic bit of parlor humor was written by the inimitable Noel Coward. The faster you sing it the more effective this tongue tangler is.  The link shows Noel singing a lightning round version that takes the breath away.
  9. All I Want is a Proper Cup of Coffee - This version is by my favorite duo, Eric and Keith of Trout Fishing in America. This is another one of those that gets faster and faster and challenges you to keep your tongue untangled.
  10. I'm My Own Grandpa - This horrible old song is the chronicle of backwoods marriage run amuck. It's appropriate to end this list with a version of this song performed in riotous fashion by the Muppets.  Keep in mind that circumstances laid out in this song could actually happen all quite legally and given the current run of May/December weddings out there, it could happen again.
 There are a whole lot of other songs out there that could be added to this list. This is just my personal top ten - the ones I've learned how to play. If you have some favorites of your own, please add them to the comments section below.

© 2013 by Tom King

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