This is me, Eccles

This is me, Eccles
This is me, Eccles

Tuesday, 16 April 2013

Bad hymns 19

Today the judges of the Eccles Bad Hymn Award are looking at another unusual hymn. This one is apparently recommended for use on the occasion of the death of a public figure - at least, by nine out of ten munchkins, the BBC, and also George "Respect" Galloway. It is Ding-Dong! The Witch Is Dead, and we are honoured to have the author, Edgar Yipsel Harburg, with us to discuss it.


I turned George Galloway into a toad and no-one noticed.

EYH: Just call me "Yip," Eccles.

E: Yup. Now, explain this hymn to me, as it's not one I've come across - although my friend Fr Arthur, a liberal priest in good standing, uses it at funerals occasionally if he feels that the deceased did not meet his high standards. Is it a bit like Ding-Dong, merrily on high?

EYH: Well, not really. In fact it originated in The Wizard of Oz, although like My Way it is sometimes chosen for funerals. At least, if the deceased was controversial in some circles.

E: Ding-Dong! The Witch is dead. Which old Witch? The Wicked Witch! Ding-Dong! The Wicked Witch is dead.

EYH: Music by Paul Inwood. Only joking... it was Harold Arlen.

E: It's too spiritual for Paul Inwood, Yip, take it from me. Now, I think I get your meaning here: we are all miserable sinners, but it is only proper to ring the passing-bell as we depart this world?

Bell tower

He went and told the sexton, and the sexton tolled the bell - Thomas Hood.

EYH: I hadn't thought of it that way, Eccles. You may prefer another hymn I wrote, about the promise of Heaven: Somewhere over the rainbow, way up high, there's a land that I heard of once in a lullaby.

Over the rainbow

Somewhere, over the rainbow...

E: Not sure where the rainbows fit into contemporary theology, but I expect that some people do sing that one at funerals. They probably also sing We're off to see the Wizard, the wonderful Wizard of Oz.

EYP: We're off to see the Wizard was sung at the funeral of Lloyd George, the so-called "Welsh Wizard." My father knew him.

Lloyd George didn't know my father

The Welsh Wizard.

E: Well thanks, Yip, I'm still mystified about the context for this hymn: did George Galloway sing "Ding-Dong" at his mother's funeral? Will any other politicians get a state "Ding-Dong"?

EYH: Look, Eccles, can we forget this silly song?

E: How can we? Kevin Mayhew Limited want to put it in their new edition of Catholic hymns for the dangerously insane. Still, thanks for coming along, Yip. Your way home is easy - just follow the yellow brick road.

Previous entries for the Eccles Bad Hymn Award:

Lord of the Dance.    Shine, Jesus, shine.    Enemy of apathy.    Walk in the Light.
Kum Ba Yah.    Follow me.    God's Spirit is in my heart.    Imagine.    Alleluia Ch-ch.
It ain't necessarily so.    I, the Lord of sea and sky.    Colours of day.    The red flag.
Go, the Mass is ended.    I watch the sunrise.    Bind us together, Lord.    Our god reigns.
My way.


  1. ...I expect that some people do sing that one at funerals.

    That appears to be something of an understatement; our local crematorium offers no fewer than 28 different versions including a karaoke track. Is that enough to warrant a 'Bad Hynms' entry in its own right?

    And yes, 'Follow the Yellow Brick Road' is in there as well.

    1. So the challenge is to find a song which is never sung at funerals...

  2. darling eccles, I fink de Soho Mosses will tell you how de rainbow is used in liturgy :) xx Jess

  3. As a funeral hymn, I can see that "Ding Dong the wicked witch is dead" might lend a certain dignity to the occasion and your interview with Mr Jarlsberg was very interesting. However, since the Holy Week parades here in Spain this year, my eyes have been opened to more tasteful hymns. Take for example, Novio de la Muerte, "the Bridegroom of Death", here sung by the Spanish Foreign Legion (savd) in Malaga two weeks ago. Given half a chance, these guys could give Paul Inwood a good kicking.

  4. Well, here in the US, ‘Ding-Dong’ has a more epicurean connotation (I’m stretching it here…junk food might be more apt). Closely associated with Ding-Dongs are “Ho-Hos” – also an epicure… er, junk food item.

    So perhaps we can extrapolate: “Ask not for whom the Ding Dong tolls, it - Ho-Ho - tolls for thee…”

    Tolled you so!

  5. I've also heard 'con te partiro'. Nice song but as a recessional hymn it's too sad. Innit?

  6. I thought the phrase was 'Lloyd George knew my mother' ...

  7. Having never heard any Paul Inwood hymns before I listened to some on Youtube. My psychaitrist says I shouldn't be in Hospital for more than 6 months but he's afraid the nervous tick in the corner of my eye whenever I hear a piano introduction, may be permanent. I ask you for your prayers that I will never do anything so foolish again. Chloe

  8. Paula N Wood wrote a lovely non-funereal hymn called "Gloria" but why would she want to sing about another woman?

  9. "Give me clean hands" & "We all like sheep" are never sung at traditional funerals.