The song sparrow

Today’s revisiting of Calvin and Hobbes:

The song sparrow segues into a bit of kidlore (beloved by campers and scout troops), and that gets Calvin thrown out of the house by his mother.

A lot of kidlore has no traceable history, but this one has an official story.

The Wikipedia account:

“On Top of Spaghetti” is a ballad and children’s song written and originally performed by folk singer Tom Glazer with the Do-Re-Mi Children’s Chorus in 1963. The song is sung to the tune of “On Top of Old Smoky”. It is essentially the tale of a meatball that was lost when “somebody sneezed”. The song discusses what happened to the meatball after it fell off of a pile of spaghetti and rolled away.

An early version of the song, attributed to middle school students in Lodi, California, was printed in the Lodi News-Sentinel on January 25, 1961.

The Glazer version is available on YouTube. I find it annoyingly cutesy and much prefer a 1999 version by the Persuasions, on their kids’ album Good Ship Lollipop (a version that is unfortunately not available on-line, so far as I can tell).

I was a bit surprised to discover that the song is only about 50 years old, but then estimates of time depths are unreliable in many domains.

5 Responses to “The song sparrow”

  1. Bob Richmond Says:

    When I was in high school in the Fifties we used to sing “On Top of Old Sophie” which alas survived onto the Web:
    http://sniff.numachi.com/pages/tiOLDSMOK5;ttOLDSMOKY.html

  2. John Roth Says:

    I remember it as “On top of a pizza,” not spaghetti, as sung by a particularly cheezy DJ in Chicago. Having spaghetti “all covered with cheese” makes no sense.

    • Bob Richmond Says:

      John, the later reference to pizza may help to date the song earlier. Pizza was not a common item in the American diet before the mid 1950s. I remember when it seemed new.

      • Walt Gordon Says:

        It wasn’t a “later reference to pizza”.

        The Pizza Song came out first, in 1961, written by Dick Biondi (the Chicago DJ mentioned) and “the kids” (Biondi was always careful to credit “the kids”).

        On Top of Spaghetti came out ~2 years later, with (coincidentally) a lot of the same lyrics, but talking about “spaghetti” and “meatballs” in lieu of pizza.

        There’s no “dating” necessary. The timeline is pretty well documented.

  3. Sam Says:

    “On Top of Spaghetti” may be subject to the same phenomenon as most Christmas music where “traditional” really means “invented during the Baby Boomer’s childhood”, where nostalgia seems to pile up like a snow drift, or a blocked sewer.

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