I’ve been enjoying a song for the last 15 years that I have only heard once. Until yesterday. In class, some yahoo said, “you can’t be your own grandpa.” I thought, “Wait.” I remembered hearing a song that suggested the opposite.
The year was 2001 (ish). I was at a church Christmas banquet/party at the CHM2 Hill Center in Corvallis. Everyone was dressed up. I was probably wearing my red tie from the Nature Conservancy that had tree frogs on it that I thought was really cool (it was my only tie) which I learned years later everyone was subtly snickering at for years. Argh. I wish I would have kept it. I would wear it today if I had it.
Sid played a song where one of the lines was “I’m my own grandpa.” That’s what I remember. That line. That I laughed and enjoyed hearing it. Don’t know anything else about it. Never heard it again.
And then the yahoo said so confidently yesterday that it wasn’t possible to be your own grandpa. I did a search online and saw Willie Nelson. I thought, “Willie!” And I pressed play. We listened to it in class. (And then later in the day in another class.)
I’ve had it in my head since. Rumor has it that some football players were singing it yesterday at practice. (Also: I love the suggestion that students bring to class sometimes “I already know what we’re going to do.” REALLY!? Because I don’t.)
Why do I like this song?
It’s funny, but it’s more than that. It’s simple, and something I could probably write, so that’s part of it. It’s catchy, and the chorus is fun to hear, and especially to hear others unexpectedly sing along to it. The guitar seems achievable. I think it has always been a hidden ambition to write songs similar to this, and that must be part of it.
This is what WIKIPEDIA has to say about it:
“I’m My Own Grandpa” (sometimes rendered as “I’m My Own Grandpaw“) is a novelty song written by Dwight Latham and Moe Jaffe, performed by Lonzo and Oscar in 1947, about a man who, through an unlikely (but legal) combination of marriages, becomes stepfather to his own stepmother — that is, tacitly dropping the “step-” modifiers, he becomes his own grandfather.
In the 1930s, Latham had a group, the Jesters, on network radio; their specialties were bits of spoken humor and novelty songs. While reading a book of Mark Twain anecdotes, he once found a paragraph in which Twain proved it would be possible for a man to become his own grandfather. In 1947, Latham and Jaffe expanded the idea into a song, which became a hit for Lonzo and Oscar.
The Mark Twain connection really makes me happy too. For me, this helps prove the thesis that we are working on this year: THE MORE YOU KNOW ABOUT SOMETHING, THE MORE YOU ARE LIKELY TO APPRECIATE IT. This whole experience gives me the feeling that I am on the right track. I wonder where the train is going. We’ll see.
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