October 6, 2009

My Grandfather's Clock, The Eerie Song On My Kid's Version Of My Fisher-Price Clock

Naturally, I had no idea as a kid, but as soon as one of those Fisher-Price Teaching Clocks crossed my grown-up path this weekend, I started wondering what that song was. I mean, if it's going to be my ringtone, I oughta know, right?

Wow, is it creepy. It's called "My Grandfather's Clock," and it was written by Connecticut-born composer Henry Clay Work. According to Wikipedia [I know, but I've had a really full plate lately], the song is the source of the term, "grandfather clock," and it was based on reportedly true stories of a hotel clock in England that kept perfect time throughout the lifetimes of the brothers who owned the hotel. But when one brother died, the clock started slowing down, and when the other brother died, it stopped working completely.

The song was also the inspiration for a 1963 Twilight Zone episode. Fisher-Price put it in the clock in either 1964 or 1968. For your retro infotainment, here is "My Grandfather's Clock," sung by Johnny Cash.


I love that toy clock and song. My brother inherited the one we had as kids; I stupidly bought the knock-off for my son, not realizing that it was a hunk of plastic.

My kid learned that song IN SCHOOL last year. Further fodder for my theory that her teacher was whackadoodle.

I remember that song from my own childhood. I think we sang it in Girl Scouts where we also sang a highly inappropriate song about the sinking of the Titanic.

And the old....man....died!

I'm surprised you didn't know this one; I've always thought of it as a pretty well-established bit of Americana. I've heard it sung by school children in the Midwest and in California.

Jennifer's comment made me think of the "Ruben James", another classic from the days when children sang together in school. In part:

Have you heard of the ship called the good Reuben James?

Armed of hard fighting men, both of honor and of fame,

She flew the Stars and Stripes of the Land of the Free,

But tonight she's in her grave at the bottom of the sea.

In her grave along with quite a lot of dead sailors:

Oh tell me what were their names, tell me what were their names?

Did you have a friend on the good Rueben James?

Cheery stuff.

I know "The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald," but I didn't sing it in kindergarten.

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