The fly the old lady swallowedWhoa! It’s been a long while since I’ve posted a ukulele song, so today I’m posting a song that seems to have become politically incorrect over the past decade or so: “There was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly”. Have you noticed that there have been several picture book versions of this song that have come out in which the old lady doesn’t die?

In fact, nobody ever dies in recent picture book versions of this song. That doesn’t work for me.

And is it both ageist and sexist? I dunno. I never thought of it that way, but maybe I’m wrong.

I guess it’s probably not a good idea to have anyone die in a picture book, unless it’s a politically correct book like The Fall of Freddie the Leaf (remember that?) or Badger’s Parting Gifts, that explains death to young kids. But I’ve always thought of this song as a goofy song. If you tried swallowing a whole horse (and of course the old lady is not going to cut that horse up into steaks and chops before she swallows it, is she?), you would explode, with a big KA-BOOM. And death by explosion is something even little kids get, I’ve always found.

But I’ve never performed this song for purely toddler or preschool groups, anyway. I’ve always done it for audiences that are at least halfway younger elementary kids – they’re the ones who seem to get it best.

So here I’m including the way I’ve always performed it – very simple strumming and frequent interruptions to shrug, shake my head, and make comments. When you perform it, remember that the song is in 3/4 time, like a waltz, and that it should be sung in as silly a way as you can manage, even when you’re being melodramatically tragic – which I always am when I get to the final verses. I sniff loudly and shake my head as you might imagine a Victorian undertaker would do it.

Have fun with it.

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