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For He's a Jolly Good Fellow

"For He's a Jolly Good Fellow" is a popular song that is sung to congratulate a person on a significant event, such as a promotion, a birthday, a wedding (or playing a major part in a wedding), a wedding anniversary, the birth of a child, or the winning of a championship sporting event. The melody originates from the French song "Marlbrough s'en va-t-en guerre" ("Marlborough Has Left for the War"). The traditional children's song "The Bear Went Over the Mountain" is sung to the same tune.

"For He's a Jolly Good Fellow"
Song
Language English

According to the Guinness World Records, "For He's a Jolly Good Fellow" is the second-most popular song in the English language, following "Happy Birthday to You" and followed by "Auld Lang Syne".

Contents

HistoryEdit

The tune is of French origin and dates at least from the 18th century.[1] Allegedly it was composed the night after the Battle of Malplaquet in 1709.[2] It became a French folk tune and was popularized by Marie Antoinette after she heard one of her maids singing it.[3] The melody became so popular in France that it was used to represent the French defeat in Beethoven's composition "Wellington's Victory" Opus 91 written in 1813.[4]

The melody also became widely popular in the United Kingdom.[5] By the mid-19th century[6] it was being sung with the words "For he's a jolly good fellow", often at all-male social gatherings.[7] By 1862, it was already familiar in America.[8]

The British and American versions of the lyrics differ. "And so say all of us" is typically British,[9] while "which nobody can deny" is regarded as the American version,[4] but "which nobody can deny" has been used by non-American writers, including Charles Dickens in Household Words,[10] Hugh Stowell Brown in Lectures to the Men of Liverpool[11] and James Joyce in Finnegans Wake.[12] In addition, the 1935 American film Ruggles of Red Gap, set in rural Washington state, ends with repeated choruses of the song, with the two variations sung alternately. This may have been chosen by the writer or director because while the crowd singing it is almost completely American, the person they are singing it about is British.

In the United States, the "And so say all of us" version is often found East of the Mississippi, while the "which nobody can deny" variation is far more common West of the Mississippi. In both regions, prior to the popularization of the "Happy Birthday to You" song, "For He's a Jolly Good Fellow" was the most commonly sung birthday song.

LyricsEdit

As with many songs that use gender-specific pronouns, the song can be altered to agree with the sex of the intended recipient, "he" being replaced with "she."[13] If the song is being sung to two or more people (e.g. twins or triplets) it is altered to use plurals (i.e. "For They are Jolly Good Fellows.")

British versionEdit

For he's a jolly good fellow, for he's a jolly good fellow
For he's a jolly good fellow (pause), and so say all of us
And so say all of us, and so say all of us
For he's a jolly good fellow, for he's a jolly good fellow
For he's a jolly good fellow (pause), and so say all of us!

American versionEdit

For he's a jolly good fellow, for he's a jolly good fellow
For he's a jolly good fellow (pause), which nobody can deny
Which nobody can deny, which nobody can deny
For he's a jolly good fellow, for he's a jolly good fellow
For he's a jolly good fellow (pause), which nobody can deny!

Danish versionEdit

For han/hun er en af vor egne, for han/hun er en af vor egne
For han/hun er en af vor egne (pause), en rigtig guttermand
En rigtig guttermand, en rigtig guttermand
For han/hun er en af vor egne, for han/hun er en af vor egne
For han/hun er en af vor egne (pause), en rigtig guttermand!

French versionEdit

Car c'est un bon camarade, Car c'est un bon camarade
Car c'est un bon camarade (pause), Buvons à sa santé
Buvons à sa santé, Buvons à sa santé
Car c'est un bon camarade, Car c'est un bon camarade
Car c'est un bon camarade (pause), Buvons à sa santé !

Italian versionEdit

Perché è un bravo ragazzo, perché è un bravo ragazzo
perché è un bravo ragazzo (pause), nessuno lo può negar
Nessuno lo può negar, nessuno lo può negar
Perché è un bravo ragazzo, perché è un bravo ragazzo
perché è un bravo ragazzo (pause), nessuno lo può negar!

Portuguese (Brazil) versionEdit

Ele é um bom companheiro, ele é um bom companheiro
Ele é um bom companheiro (pause), ninguém pode negar
ninguém pode negar, ninguém pode negar
Ele é um bom companheiro, ele é um bom companheiro
Ele é um bom companheiro (pause), ninguém pode negar!

Spanish (Spain) versionEdit

Porque es un chico excelente, porque es un chico excelente
Porque es un chico excelente..., y siempre lo será.
Y siempre lo será, y siempre lo será.
Porque es un chico excelente, porque es un chico excelente
Porque es un chico excelente..., y siempre lo será.
Y siempre lo será, y siempre lo será...

Spanish (Latin America) versionEdit

Porque es un buen compañero, porque es un buen compañero
Porque es un buen compañero (pausa), y nadie lo puede negar
Y nadie lo puede negar, y nadie lo puede negar
Porque es un buen compañero, porque es un buen compañero
Porque es un buen compañero (pausa), y nadie lo puede negar!

Swedish versionEdit

För han är en jättebra kompis, för han är en jättebra kompis
För han är en jättebra kompis..., fy fan vad han är bra!
Fy fan vad han är bra, fy fan vad han är bra
För han är en jättebra kompis, för han är en jättebra kompis
För han är en jättebra kompis (paus), fy fan vad han är bra!

Croatian versionEdit

Jer on je najbolji kompa, jer on je najbolji kompa,
jer on je najbolji kompa, (pauza) i nitko to nemre poreč'!
I nitko to nemre poreč' i nitko to nemre poreč'.
Jer on je najbolji kompa, jer on je najbolji kompa,
jer on je najbolji kompa, (pauza) i nitko to nemre poreč'!

Catalan versionEdit

És un xicot excel·lent, és un xicot excel·lent.
És un xicot excel·lent..., això no es pot negar.
Això no es pot negar, això no es pot negar.
És un xicot excel·lent, és un xicot excel·lent.
És un xicot excel·lent..., això no es pot negar.
Això no es pot negar, això no es pot negar...

Hebrew versionEdit

Ki hu bahur ka'erez, ki hu bahur ka'erez
Ki hu bahur ke'e-e-e-rez
Kulanu pe ehad YEEEEEH!

Irish versionEdit

For he's a jolly good fellow, for he's a jolly good fellow
For he's a jolly good fellow (pause)
And sunsé all of us,
And sunsé all of us, and sunsé all of us
For he's a jolly good fellow, for he's a jolly good fellow, for he's a jolly good fellow (pause)
And sunsé all of us.

Russian versionEdit

Какой хороший парень, какой хороший парень,
Какой хороший парень...
Приятно, что он среди нас,
Приятно, что он среди нас, приятно, что он среди нас.
Какой хороший парень, какой хороший парень,какой хороший парень...
Приятно, что он среди нас.

Pause lengthEdit

The last syllable of the third iteration of "For he's a jolly good fellow" is often sung with an exaggerated fermata or pause before going on, making it difficult for groups or crowds to sing the next line in unison. This is evident, for example, when sung as a crowd chant in a football stadium or at a birthday party. Typically the note is extended an additional half measure, though it's acceptable to have no addition or extend the note for a full measure.

VariationsEdit

  • The British and American versions can be combined, normally with "and so say all of us" in the middle of the verse, and "which nobody can deny" at the end.
  • In Australia, many people have traditionally replaced "He's a jolly good fellow" with "She's a jolly good lassie" when singing to a female.[14][15][16]
  • In Spain, it is sometimes sung at birthdays instead of Happy Birthday to You. This is also the case in America on television and in movies, because Warner/Chappell Music claimed copyright to "Happy Birthday To You" until 2016, while "For He's a Jolly Good Fellow" has long been in the public domain.
  • "Nobody" is sometimes replaced by "no one".
  • In the Porridge episode Disturbing the Peace, all the prisoners greet Mr. Mackay to this song, having successfully eliminated Mr. Wainwright.

ReferencesEdit

Notes

  1. ^ The Oxford Dictionary of Music, 2nd. ed.(revised). Ed. Michael Kennedy:‘18th‐cent. Fr. nursery song. ... It is usually stated that ‘Malbrouck’ refers to the 1st Duke of Marlborough, but the name is found in medieval literature.’
  2. ^ Catalogue of rare books of and relating to music. London: Ellis. p. 32. 
  3. ^ West, Nancy Shohet (9 June 2011). "Mining nuggets of music history". Boston Globe. Retrieved 22 June 2011. 
  4. ^ a b Cryer, Max (2010). Love Me Tender: The Stories Behind the World's Favourite Songs (Large Print). Exisle Publishing. pp. 26 ff. ISBN 1-4587-7956-4. 
  5. ^ The Times (London, England), 28 March 1826, p. 2:'The Power of Music'. A visiting foreigner, trying to recall the address of his lodgings in Marlborough Street, hums the tune to a London cabman: he immediately recognises it as 'Malbrook'.
  6. ^ The song may have featured in an "extravaganza" given at the Princess theatre in London at Easter 1846, during which fairies hold a moonlight meeting: "...the meeting closes with a song of thanks to Robin Goodfellow (Miss Marshall), who had occupied the chair,...and who is assured that "he’s a jolly good fellow." "Princess's." Times [London, England] 14 Apr. 1846: 5. The Times Digital Archive. Web. 1 Oct. 2012.
  7. ^ The Times reprinted an article from Punch describing a drunken speech given at a (fictional) public meeting. The speech ends: "Zshenl’men, here’s all your vehgood healts! I beggapard’n – here’s my honangal’n fren’s shjolly goo’ health! "For he’s a jolly good fellow, &c (Chorus by the whole of the company, amid which the right hon. orator tumbled down.)" "The After Dinner Speech At The Improvement Club." Times [London, England] 23 Mar. 1854: 10. The Times Digital Archive. Web. 1 Oct. 2012.
  8. ^ Review of a piano recital: “As a finale he performed for the first time, a burlesque on the French air, "Marlbrook," better known to the American student of harmony as "He's a jolly good fellow." New York Times, 4 October 1862
  9. ^ An 1859 version quoted in The Times however has some ‘red-faced’ English officers at an Indian entertainment dancing before their host: ‘...declaring that he was "a right good fellow; he’s a jolly good fellow, which nobody dare deny hip, hip, hip, hoorah!" &c.’ The Times(London, England), 24 March 1859, p. 9
  10. ^ Dickens, Charles (1857). Household Words. 15. p. 142. 
  11. ^ Brown, Hugh Stowell (1860). Lectures to the Men of Liverpool. p. 73. 
  12. ^ Joyce, James. Finnegans Wake. p. 25. 
  13. ^ Originally the song was associated with after-dinner drinking by all-male groups and not used for females. In 1856 British officers in the Crimea mistakenly sang it after a toast had been made, in Russian, to the Empress of Russia:'...peals of laughter followed when they all learned the subject of the toast, which was afterwards drunk again with due honour and respect.' Blackwood's Magazine, Volume 80, October 1856
  14. ^ "Preview For He's A Jolly Good Fellow - For Easy Piano By Traditional (S0.107999) - Sheet Music Plus". www.choralsheetmusic.com. Retrieved 2016-09-27. 
  15. ^ Katz, Danny (2015-10-30). "Modern guru". Retrieved 2016-09-27. 
  16. ^ "ZEERUST NEWS - COMING OF AGE PARTY - Shepparton Advertiser (Vic. : 1914 - 1953) - 10 Feb 1941". Trove. Retrieved 2016-09-27. 

External linksEdit