Yankee Doodle

Yankee Doodle is today a well-known American children's song, which has existed in many versions over time.

The first verse, as most frequently sung today, runs--

Yankee Doodle went to town,
riding on a pony;
stuck a feather in his hat,
and called it macaroni.
Yankee Doodle, keep it up,
Yankee Doodle dandy;
Mind the music and the step,
and with the girls be handy!


The song's origins were in a pre-United States Revolutionary War song originally sung by British military officers to mock the disheveled, unorganized colonial "Yankees" with whom they served in the French and Indian War. It is believed that the tune comes from the nursery rhyme Lucy Locket. One version of the Yankee Doodle lyrics are attributed to Doctor Richard Shuckburgh, a British Army surgeon. Many worry that the term "Yankee Doodle" may have been an explicit reference to an expression such as "yank your doodle", yet the it remains unclear whether or not this is true.

The Boston Journal of the Times wrote about a British band declaring "that Yankee Doodle song was the Capital Piece of their band music."

The earliest known version of the lyrics comes from 1775:

Brother Ephraim sold his Cow
And bought him a Commission;
And then he went to Canada
To fight for the Nation;
But when Ephraim he came home
He proved an arrant Coward,
He wou'd'nt fight the Frenchmen there
For fear of being devour'd.

(Note that the sheet music which accompanies these lyrics reads, "The Words to be Sung thru the Nose, & in the West Country drawl & dialect.")

During the Revolutionary War, the Americans embraced the song and made it their own, turning it back on those who had used it to mock them. A newspaper account after the Battle of Lexington and Concord, a Boston newspaper reported, "Upon their return to Boston [pursued by the Minutemen], one [Briton] asked his brother officer how he liked the tune now,-- 'D--n them,' returned he, 'they made us dance it till we were tired.' -- Since which Yankee Doodle sounds less sweet to their ears."

The British responded with another set of lyrics following the Battle of Bunker Hill:

The seventeen of June, at Break of Day,
The Rebels they supriz'd us,
With their strong Works, which they'd thrown up,
To burn the Town and drive us.

A full version of the first few stanzas of the song, as it is known today, goes:

Father and I went down to camp,
Along with Captain Gooding,
And there we saw the men and boys
As thick as hasty pudding.
Yankee Doodle keep it up,
Yankee Doodle dandy,
Mind the music and the step,
And with the girls be handy.
There was Captain Washington
Upon a slapping stallion,
A-giving orders to his men,
I guess there was a million.
Yankee Doodle &c.
And then the feathers on his hat,
They looked so 'tarnal fine, sir,
I wanted pockily to get
To give to my Jemima.
Yankee Doodle &c.
And then we saw a swamping gun,
Large as a log of maple;
Upon a deuced little cart,
A load for father's cattle.
Yankee Doodle &c.
And every time they shoot it off,
It takes a horn of powder;
It makes a noise like father's gun,
Only a nation louder.
Yankee Doodle &c.

During the American Civil War, Southerners added some new lines of their own:

Yankee Doodle had a mind
To whip the Southern traitors,
Because they did not choose to live
On codfish and potatoes.
Yankee Doodle, fa, so la,
Yankee Doodle dandy,
And so to keep his courage up,
He took a drink of brandy.

Many other variations and parodies have since arisen, including the one taught to schoolchildren today:

Yankee Doodle went to town
A-riding on a pony
He stuck a feather in his hat
And called it macaroni

Some believe that this was one of the first alternative lyrics by the english army during the revolutionary war. Macaroni was a very nice club in London at the time, London being the town that the Yankee came to. The joke being that the Yankees are stupid enough to believe that a feather in the hat is sufficiently spiffy to gain entry to Macaroni.

The word macaroni meant "dandy", or "fop", or "dude" at the time.

And the following anonymous junior-high school campus parody:

Yankee Doodle went to London
Riding in a rocket
It flew so high, he lost an eye
And corked out his eye socket.

In America Sings ,a Disneyland attraction made for the bicentennial , Yankee Doodle acts as a transition song between each scene with these lyrics, sang by a Bald Eagle named Sam, voiced by Burl Ives:


Yankee Doodle sing it up.
Yankee Doodle dandy.
Mind the music and the words
and with the songs be handy...

The South:

Yankee Doodle travelled south,
a-riding on a riverboat,
played a tune and sang it out;
it sounded like a billygoat.
Yankee Doodle liked the South
and sang their songs so dear.
Thought they were most elegant
for everyone to hear.

The Old West:

Yankee Doodle headed west
a-workin' on the railroad;
Crossin' them rivers, over hills,
and moving with a big load.
Onward west the trains rolled.
where cattle were a-grazin'.
The tales and songs that people sang
were really quite amazin'

The 1890's:

The "Gay 90s" were upon us now;
the country was in full swing.
People headin' for the cities;
had to do their own thing.
Each time the people sang a song,
the tunesmiths wrote another
'bout love, marriage, moon in June,
and always one about Mother.

The 20th Century:

Next came ragtime, blues and jazz.
The nation was a-jumpin'!
Fox trots and the bunny hug
had everyone a-stompin'
Then swing and big bands were the rage.
The songs they were most pleasin'.
Rock and roll soon took its toll;
the dancers stopped a-squeezin'.

Transition to finale:

Yankee Doodle remembers when,
to make these songs ring true,
people came from every land
to mix these tunes for you.
So we should all remember,
as hist'ry moves along,
that everything is better now
'cause someone wrote a song

Final Verse:

Yankee Doodle always said
the past is just a start;
Tomorrow will bring songs to you
that come straight from the heart.
Another thing he had to say
is life is just a song.
So, everybody get in tune,
and let's all sing along

The tune has become synonymous with the United States. The Voice of America begins all broadcasts and ends all broadcasts with the interval signal of "Yankee Doodle".

External links

Template:American songs


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