Thursday, November 11, 2010

Donkeys are in Love with Carrots - Song #36

I am not finding a lot of info about this song at first glance - it's a simple song with silly lyrics. And that's about it.

Donkeys are in love with carrots
carrots aren't in love at all
Hee haw hee haw
Listen to their braying call

Anyone know any more than this?

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

More music alone

To follow up on my previous post, here are three versions of "Music Alone Shall Live":

1 - A guy singing all the parts himself through the magic of recording technology - charming:

This is also a good place to point out that another term for a round is a simple canon. There are other types of canons where the original melody is not repeated exactly - can be a variation, or reversed, or at an interval, etc. But that's a bit complicated for our purposes.

2 - I love this version, though it's not sung as a round. 1970 reggae:

3 - And finally, in the original German, more or less, by a guy and girl who look like they are at a camp similar to Ajawah:

Friday, October 29, 2010

Music Alone Shall Live - Song # 35

Back to my list of rounds... next up is another classic example, one with a very simple lyric that is easy to learn and sing. It's on the lovely side, rather than the rowdy.

Here is a link to sheet music, though the first line is a slightly different melody than the one I know:

Also, I see that many places have the words as "all things shall vanish," but I prefer the way we sing it at Camp Ajawah: "All Things Shall Perish." Not sure what the closer translation is from the original, which is German:

Himmel und Erde mussen vergehn;
Aber die musici,aber die musici
Aber die musici, bleiben bestehn.

Put the first line in babelfish and it outputs :"Heaven and Earth mussen vergehn." Hmmm. I am guessing it means "must vanish" but let me try another online translator... and I get "Heaven and Earth must pass away." Which sounds more like "perish" than "vanish." Not that it really matters.

More on this round in my next post...

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

A performance of Wha Saw the 42nd

If you go back to my post about song # 20, you will see a new comment from "anonymous." It mentions a youtube clip featuring two singers performing Wha Saw. Their names are Robin Hall and Jimmie MacGregor. Here it is:

Pretty rousing! And no bagpipe to be heard. So who are Robin and Jimmie? They were a Scottish folk music duo who were very popular in the UK in the 1960s and 70s, often on the radio. I'd never heard of them before, but am glad to have been led to them. Here's another song (but not one we sang at Camp Ajawah):

Monday, September 13, 2010

I Love The Flowers - Song #34

I initially had "I Love The Flowers" (aka "I Love The Mountains" or "Boomdiada," etc.) on my list of rounds two posts ago. But then I realized it wasn't one - it's not sung in a chain reaction with an unlimited number of groups able to take part.

No, it belongs to a unique subgroup of songs in which the singers at some point split into two halves, each singing something different. In this case, the verse and chorus are sung once through by all, then one half repeats the "boomdiada" refrain while the other signs the verse. Then the two sides reverse roles and finish the song.

Here is an example from Sweden:

I previously posted twice about the use of the song in Discovery Channel promos:

Now, when looking for performances or other info online, it's amazing to see how many people now know this not as a camp or school song, but as 'that Discovery song." The power of television advertising.

It's been hard tracking down the origins of the lyrics. But the music almost certainly was modeled after Hoagy Carmichael's tin pan alley classic of 1939, "Heart and Soul," which has been recorded many times in many genres and is a famously easy two-person piano piece. See the two following videos to see what I mean.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

When You Hear a Cannon - song #33

Making the rounds with rounds... one of the songs I mentioned in my last post is a good example of why rounds are useful for group singing: they're easy to learn. Due to the repetitive nature of these songs, you only need to learn one chorus. You sing it over and over. Three times is the norm. And the melodies are likewise generally easy to pick up.

And WYHAC takes simple lyrics to an extreme:

When you hear a cannon it goes bang bang
When you hear a cannon it goes bang bang bang bang
Bang bang bang bang bang

The percussive sound of all those "bangs" is fun to sing. And as the subgroups finish one by one, the sound gradually transforms from raucous to simple.

A funny thing happened when I googled "When you hear a Cannon" - the only references I can find online are from Camp Ajawah related posts, other than one from the Delhi Girl Scouts. Is it really that obscure? I tried searching various permutations and still found nothing.

The origins of who taught any given song and when at Ajawah can be lost to the fog of time, since the camp has been around 80+ years and has distinct girls' and boys' halves. So if anyone reading this knows the song but is not from Camp Ajawah, please let me know in the comments.

Of, if you are from Ajawah and know anything about the origins of "When You Hear A Cannon," I would love to hear from you as well.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010


I thought I would start posting lists occasionally, breaking down the big list of camp songs into smaller groupings. This could be useful if someone's looking for a specific type of song. Let's get right to it with our first list: rounds.

A round is a song that can overlap with itself and create interesting rhythms and harmony.

Chairs to Mend
Donkeys are in Love with Carrots
Hi Ho (Nobody Home)
Little Tommy Tinker
Make New Friends
Music Alone
Oh How Lovely is the Evening
One Dark Night
Our Paddles
To Stop the Train
Wha' Saw the 42nd
When You Hear a Cannon

Did I forget any? Are there any that you like that are not part of the Camp Ajawah list on the home page?

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Edelweiss - Song # 32

No doubt most people are familiar with "Edelweiss" from the classic musical, "The Sound of Music." Richard Rodgers composed a brilliantly simple melody for Oscar Hammerstein II's lovely lyrics. If you didn't know better, you might believe it to be a old Austrian folk song. And thus it works very well as a summer camp song - more for the evening campfire than for the rowdier post-meal sing-a-longs in the mess hall.

It was the last song Rodgers and Hammerstein composed together. It appears twice in the film; near the end when the Von Trapp family sings it at the festival as a patriotic hymn, rousing the audience to join them. Good as that scene is, I prefer the first time it appears - when the children learn that their father knows how to play the guitar. He simply strums a few chords and tenderly sings to the children.

So - how about a few other versions of the song? Here is one by a popular Iranian singer who performs it as a protest against the current regime, just as Georg sang it to protest the Nazis:

And here is a link to a young girl who sang it on Britain's Got Talent and broke down in the middle:

She did get a second chance - thanks to none other than Simon Cowell himself...

Saturday, May 29, 2010

More sloop

The Sloop John B has had a fine run in pop music, as evidenced by my previous post. But it's a traditional song - and from the Caribbean, which is less common for songs we sang at Camp Ajawah. Nassau town refers to the Bahamas, of course. My main question - was there a real Sheriff John Stone?

The song worked at camp for a number of reasons. The melody is catchy and the lyrics easy to learn. "I want to go home" resonates with the homesickness most campers feel from time to time. The captain's trunk is mentioned, and most campers brought their clothes to camp in a trunk. And who can't help but think of the camp's cook while singing "The poor cook he had fits, ate up all of my grits, then he took and he at up all of my corn." Never had grits at camp, but we did have plenty of corn.

I did find this parody online:


We looked for the Sloop John A; We looked for it all day;
Round Nassau Town we did roam,
A man on the pier, Said it wasn't here;
We didn't find it, And then we went home.

Where can the John A be? Maybe the A's at sea;
We had a good look round, Then we went home.
Then we went home, We had to go home.
We didn't find it And then we went home.

The first mate was not there, Maybe he was elsewhere;
Maybe he was on board the Sloop John A;
Wherever he was, We didn't meet him because
We didn't find it, And then we went home.

Where can the John A be? Maybe the A's at sea;
We had a good look round, Then we went home,
Then we went home, We had to go home.
We didn't find it, And then we went home.

The day was a non-event, It seemed the A had went;
Then they told us that there's another called B.
B was OK; I had my heart set on A;
We didn't find it, And then we went home.

Where can the John A be? Maybe the A's at sea;
We had a good look round, Then we went home
Then we went home, We had to go home. I wanna go home.
We didn't find it, And then we went home.

Lyrics: Les Barker, published in 'Sitting With My Dog On Display'.
Recorded by David Knutsen on Tubular Dogs (catalogue no: Dog013)"

Back to the actual song, Carl Sandberg wrote that he was told the "weathered ribs of the historic craft lie imbedded in the sand at Governor's Harbor" in Nassau. Already by 1927 "Time and usage have given this song almost the dignity of a national anthem around Nassau."

Another interesting tidbit: "I've heard from one knowledgeable source that the bad things that happen on that sloop are all the result of naming the boat "John B." In Afro-Caribbean culture, nobody with a surname beginning with "B" (supposedly) will name a son "John," because the result ("John B." sounds too much like "jumby" -- a west African (Wolof/Bambera) term referring to this undead thing we've anglicized to "zombie" -- apparently it won't do to mention these creatures; "speak of the devil," and all that."

The lyrics in versions in the first part of the 20th Century are fairly close to the Beach Boys' version, with slight variations here and there. The Weavers had a hit with the song in the early 1950s. Some versions say "Mr. Johnstone" rather than "Sheriff Johnstone," so it seems unlikely there was really a lawman of that name.

Bob Marley's "I Shot The Sheriff" seems distantly related - both songs are from the Caribbean, feature someone's travails, and have a sheriff. Loose thread, I know...

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Sloop John B - Song #31

From trains (last posts) to boats. Here are four pop versions, all of them good, demonstrating the Sloop John B's enduring allure:

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Can't you hear the captain shouting?

Maybe you can't hear the captain shouting, but here you can hear three very different versions of "I've Been Working on the Railroad."

Sunday, April 25, 2010

I've Been Working on the Railroad - Song #30

IBWOTR is one of those songs that everyone, even if they have never gone to summer camp or been a member of a youth group, etc. seems to know at least in part. Maybe they learned it in elementary school or heard it in old cartoons. But it's a song everyone seems to sing exactly the same, unlike many songs I've blogged about.

Train songs have a rich tradition and we sang a number of them at Camp Ajawah - at least the boys did.

I've been working on the railroad
All the livelong day
I've been working on the railroad
Just to pass the time away

Can't you hear the whistle blowing
Rise up so early in the morn
Can't you hear the captain shouting
Dinah, blow your horn

Dinah, won't you blow
Dinah, won't you blow
Dinah, won't you blow your horn
Dinah, won't you blow
Dinah, won't you blow
Dinah, won't you blow your horn

Someone's in the kitchen with Dinah
Someone's in the kitchen I know
Someone's in the kitchen with Dinah
Strumming on the old banjo, and singing

Fie, fi, fiddly i o
Fie, fi, fiddly i o
Fie, fi, fiddly i o
Strumming on the old banjo

I have two questions: who is Dinah? And is this song indeed from the 1800s? Did rail workers sing it? Is it of African American origins? Or was it a commercial composition?

Yes, that's more than two questions, but the last three are variations on the second questions. I just want to find the origins.

Dinah - there is speculation that it's "diner" with a southern accent. Dinah blowing her horn = dining car calling workers to lunch. Or maybe Dinah was the cook. Or "dinner." Maybe blowing her horn was a variation of Gabriel blowing his horn (from The Eyes of Texas are Upon You, which has the same melody as the first part of IBWOTR).

Gargoyle at writes:

"Dinah - short for dynamite.

Kitchen - the engineer's cab of a steam locomotive

Banjo - short handled shovel"

Origins - First appeared in print in 1894 at Princeton, but otherwise the roots are somewhat murky, which is not unusual for folk music. It is likely two or three songs combined - a variation of "I've Been Working on the Levee" and "Dinah."

Strumming on the old banjo may mean stirring food in the frying pan.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Doodle Doo Doo - Song #29

Another girls camp song I had not remembered until recently, Doodle Doo Doo is one that seemed not to be a folk song, as it had more of a 1920s love song air, at least to me. The way we sung it, there were hand motions... something like clapping both hands twice on one's thighs, followed by two hand claps, a couple of finger snaps interspersed with claps, and then some twirling of the hands around each other. Not the most masculine thing to do - nor is the song in the vein of murder, train crashes, and marching to war - so maybe that's why it never crossed over to boys camp. But it's a nice enough melody.

At Camp Ajawah, it was pronounced "Doodle-ee Doo," but a little research turned up the correct title, as indeed my hunch that it's not a traditional song was right.

From 1924 (we only sang the chorus):

Writers: Art Kassel & Mel Stitzel

I've just heard a melody
That is always haunting me
Funny little strain
Running thru my brain
It's as sweet as can be
It has such a pleading way
Tho' it's with me night an day
When I hear someone playing
I walk right up an say

Please play for me
That sweet melody
Called doo-dle doo-doo
doo-dle doo-doo
I like the rest
But what I like best
Is doo-dle doo-doo doo-dle doo-doo
Simplest thing
There's nothing much to it
Don't have to sing it
Just doo-dle doo-doo it
I love it so
Wherever I go
I doo-dle doo
doo-dle doo doo doo

I've heard all the melodies
From the blues to rhapsodies
They all come and go
But there's one I know
That'll linger and tease
I've found all the blues a pest
Rhapsodies to me a jest
So if you want to please me
Just take this one request

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

More L'Amour

A few more words on the song from the previous post, known variously as "Viva L'Amour" or "Vive La Compagnie." When I first learned the song at age 9 - and for a few summers after - I thought the phrase was "Viva La Moore," because the Camp Director was (and still is) Dave Moore. Naturally, I thought it was an homage to him.

Here are the lyrics as Camp Ajawah knows them - you can see that while they differ quite a bit from the 1844 version posted earlier, one begat the other:

Let every good fellow now join in this song,

Vive la compagnie!

Success to each other and pass it along,

Vive la compagnie!


Vive la, vive la, vive l'amour

Vive la, vive la, vive l'amour

Vive l'amour, vive l'amour,

Vive la compagnie!

A friend on your left and a friend on your right,

Vive la compagnie!

In love and good fellowship let us unite,

Vive la compagnie!


Now wider and wider our circle expands,

Vive la compagnie!

We sing to our comrades in far away lands,

Vive la compagnie!


That's it. A lively song of comradeship, easy to learn, easy to sing. I will end with an amusing clip of the song being sung:

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Viva L'Amour - Song #28

I was looking up the origins of the song we knew as Viva L'Amour at boys' camp and found that it's more often titled Vive La Compagnie. Oddly enough, it appears to be a British song and sung often in America, but no trace of it ever having been French. Well, only the chorus is in that language, so maybe that does make sense.

Here is an old version of the lyrics, quite different from the one most Boy Scouts know:

Published by F. D. Benteen, Baltimore, 1844.

Let Bacchus to Venus libations pour forth, Vive la compagnie!
And let us make use of our time while it lasts. Vive la compagnie!

CHORUS: Vive la, vive la, vive l'amour!
Vive la, vive la, vive l'amour!
Vive l'amour, vive l'amour,
Vive la compagnie!

Let ev'ry old bachelor fill up his glass, Vive la compagnie!
And drink to the health of his favorite lass. Vive la compagnie! CHORUS

Let ev'ry married man drink to his wife, Vive la compagnie!
The friend of his bosom and comfort of life. Vive la compagnie! CHORUS

Come fill up your glasses—I'll give you a toast, Vive la compagnie!
Here's a health to our friend—our kind worthy host. Vive la compagnie! CHORUS

Since all with good humor, I've toasted so free, Vive la compagnie!
I hope it will please you to drink now with me. Vive la compagnie! CHORUS

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

More Castle

A little follow up to my last post:

1 - The original sheet music is available on UCLA's database of American Popular Music:'

2 - The song has its origins in African American vaudeville at the turn of the century. It was part of a show called "In Dahomey" in 1900. As is often the case with summer camp songs, there is terrific information at Here is the link to a discussion about "My Castle on the Nile."

Sunday, March 21, 2010

My Castle on the Nile - Song #27

I crosschecked the lists of songs at the links below and found perhaps a dozen that were missing from my long list on the left side of this page. There are a few I did not add, as they have been added to the tradition since my last summer at Camp Ajawah, so I do not feel "qualified" to comment on them. But check out:

You will find links there to register for summer 2010 girls' sessions and boys' sessions for kids from 8-15. Sign up soon!

I added a song that I have not thought of in years -- but was able to pluck from the depths of my gray matter. My Castle On The Nile is the title. A search for video did turn up someone singing it with hand motions similar to those used at Ajawah:

The melody is close enough for rock and roll... or camp music. The lyrics:

I'm gonna build my castle on the Nile,
So I can live in elegant style.
Inlaid diamonds on the floor
A bamboo butler at my door.
I'm gonna marry prince Alaboo,
My blood will change from red to blue,
Entertaining royalty all the while,
In my castle, castle, castle on the river Nile
....the river Nile.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

One Meatball video

A while back I posted about the song known as One Meatball or The Little Man. Still have not found any performances with the melody we used at camp. Most are the bluesy take that was a hit for the Andrews Sisters. Anyway, I came across this yesterday, a short film from the 1940s that was a precursor to the modern music video:

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

McNamara's Band - Song #26

Happy St. Patrick's Day to one and all. I thought I had already posted an entry or two on McNamara's band, but it looks like I haven't. So I will go with the Irish theme of today's holiday and write about a song I always liked a lot. At Camp Ajawah -- boys' camp only -- this was a song we never sang so often that it got tiresome, nor was it one that would go forgotten for ages. It's a short song -- also a plus -- and has a fun part where we would divide the Mess Hall into two parts, one singing "da da da da" and the other responding "boom boom!"

Wikipedia has a good summary of the song's origins - it's not an old folk song, it's was composed for commercial purposes and was a hit for Bing Crosby in the 1940's.'s_Band

Sunday, March 14, 2010

More James James Morrison Morrison

Further research on the subject of my last post confirms that it was indeed Chad Mitchell who set A A Milne's poem "Disobedience" to music. His trio, by the way, was where in 1965 John Denver got his start. He replaced Chad, who left to go solo. Oddly enough, the group dropped "Chad" but not "Mitchell" from its name.

A few years later, there were no original members left in the trio, so the name became Denver, Boise, and Johnson. Michael Johnson later went on to have a few pop hits in the 1980s, including "Bluer than Blue,) which is very much soft rock AC radio cheese - but I always loved it anyway. He sings the catchy melody convincingly:

Denver and the original trio performed a few times together in 1987. The Chad Mitchell trio still performs. Based in Seattle, they played for President Obama in DC last year. They were first to record "Blowing in the Wind," but their label objected to the lyrics, so Peter Paul & Mary's version was released first and the rest is history.

Here is a link to the CMT's website:

Unfortunately, JJMM is not on iTunes at all, by anyone. So if you want the original, buy through the trio's website. On Lala (a great music site), the only version I found is this one:

Saturday, March 13, 2010

What do Winnie the Pooh and The Doors have in common? - Song #25

The answer: James Morrison. You probably know that Jim Morrison was lead singer and songwriter for The Doors, but did you know that Winnie the Pooh's creator, A. A. Milne, wrote a poem titled "James James Morrison Morrison"? Actually, I just learned that's not correct - the title of the poem is "Disobedience." He wrote it in 1924 as part of the book "When We Were Young." It's a fun inversion of the usual mother/child relationship and very British


James James Morrison Morrison Weatherby George DuPree
Took great care of his mother though he was only three
James James said to his mother:
"Mother," he said, said he
"You must never go down to the end of the town,
if you don't go down with me.
Don't ever go down to the end of the town,
if you don't go down with me."

James James Morrison's mother put on her golden gown
James James Morrison's mother, she drove to the end of the town
James James Morrison's mother
She said to herself, said she
"Well, I can get down to the end of the town
And be back in time for tea.
Well, I can get down to the end of the town
And be back in time for tea."
King John put up a notice: "Lost, stolen or strayed,
James James Morrison's mother,
She seems to have been mislaid
Wandering vaguely all about quite of her own accord
She tried to get down to the end of the town--
Forty shillings reward.
She tried to get down to the end of the town--
Forty shillings reward.

James James Morrison Morrison, commonly known as "Jim"
Said to his other relations not to go blaming him
For James James said to his mother
"Mother", he said, said he
"Don't ever go down to the end of the town,
If you don't go down with me.
You must never go down to the end of the town,
If you don't go down with me."

Now James James Morrison's mother,
She hasn't been heard of since,
King John sent down to give his regrets,
And so did the queen and the prince,
King John, somebody told me,
Said to a man he knew,
"If people go down to the end of the town,
Well what can anyone do?
If people go down to the end of the town,
Well what can anyone do?"

I am not sure who set the words to music, but looks like it may be Chad Mitchell, who recorded the song with his folk trio in the early 1960s.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Can't Help But Wonder Where I'm Bound

Just a quick note that there is another posthumous album from Johnny Cash out as of three days ago. If you like his later years, singing old songs with just a guitar and his distinctive voice, check it out. And one of the cuts is the Camp Ajawah favorite, Tom Paxton's "I Can't Help But Wonder Where I'm Bound." Cash sings it close to the original melody. As I pointed out in an earlier post, we always sang it to the melody of Blowing In The Wind.