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Gobsmacked By Greensleeves

Herb’s Blog, Herbdate 23435 – 1201

Here’s the haps:

This, like so many of these posts this month will, of course, be globbed with gibberish. Many of you will remember that I was the winner of Chel Owen’s Terrible Poetry Contest around Christmastime. It was my parody of a Christmas song many people know called “What Child Is This?” which came out in 1871 with this tune. As a kind of humorous token I received in the mail a small music box that when opened plays the tune “Greensleeves.” I laughed out loud in appreciation of the humor.

What Child Is This – Herb Thiel version
What child is this, who scrapes his knee
And to Mary, he cries, while she’s sleeping?
He seems like any other kid
With ouchies and boo-boos (I’m sure he did).
He falls down and then starts bleeding.

She says, “Don’t wipe your nose on your robe!
Washing the clothes is harder than you’d believe
And if you don’t take care of your nose
People will call you Greensleeves.”

Like many other tunes, “What Child Is This?” was set to music that already existed. this was a common practice and even well-known and loved songs like Amazing Grace and The Star Spangled Banner are sung to tunes that were well known and often old bar tunes so this is no big deal. The tune “Greensleeves” is a minstrel ballad from the 1580s called, interestingly enough, “Greensleeves.” Anyway, my version was meant to be humorous and not disrespectful.

Then, suddenly the reason I never seem to be able to finish even the simplest of posts, happened. I became immensely curious about the original song, Greensleeves, and wound up on some rabbit trails. It is a very haunting tune, no matter whether it is the Christmas carol or the original song. I read a very scholarly, three-part article “Greensleeves: Mythology, History and Music” by a man named Ian Pittaway on his site Early Music Muse who is extremely knowledgeable about Medieval and Renaissance music. Along with the history of the song he debunks three recurrent myths. First is that, despite what TV series might have you believe, Henry VIII did not write it for Anne Boleyn or anyone else. The song is from the 1580s and Henry died in 1547. Green was not the color of prostitution or promiscuity and the song is not Irish in origin. You can read the whole article at the link above. The third part of the article contains a long list of artists who have performed it. One of the most respected and respectable artists to perform it was Olivia Newton-John:

Some people actually had talent and the ability to sing. These guys maybe not so much:

But really, as hauntingly beautiful as Olivia Newton-John’s version is and as, er, whatever you call what the guys in the Snickers commercial are doing there is no greater version of this classic than the one performed by Allan Sherman:


18 responses to “Gobsmacked By Greensleeves”

  1.  Avatar

    You should be proud of winning the Terrible Poetry Contest. It is something of significance to win anything at all and I have never won a thing except one lottery many years ago and an award for having the best newspaper at my military base (I was the editor.) And I have to admit that when I was a kid, I always wiped my nose on anything I could find…sleeves included.

    1. Herb Avatar

      😂 Thank you. As a kid, well…kids are the same everywhere, I think.

  2. john Avatar

    That anonymous comment up there is me, John Liming, from John’s Web Space. I don’t know why your system anonymized me.

    1. Herb Avatar

      I have been having a few hassles with it. I am sorry about that, John. I wouldn’t do that to you on purpose.

  3. boromax Avatar

    Excellent, Herb!! Olivia’s dulcet tones cast their spell; the Snickers commercial is blessedly short; and Allan Sherman’s version is Fantabulistical! Love it. ~Ed.

    1. Herb Avatar

      Thank you. Olivia’s version just knocked my socks off and I have always been a big Allan Sherman fan.

  4. Mr. Ohh's Sideways View Avatar

    Well Herb I’m in love woth ONJ all over again. And Allan Sherman ROCKS! 🤣🙃😎

    1. Herb Avatar

      Yes sir, I agree!

  5. ParentingIsFunny Avatar

    Interesting! And very clever, funny version of your own, Herb. So great that you won the music box. 🙂

    1. Herb Avatar

      I was really tickled for sure.

  6. dumbestblogger Avatar

    Well you’ve at least got to appreciate the costuming in the snickers commercial.

    1. Herb Avatar

      Oh, yeah. I found a whole series of them on Youtube

  7. Geoff Stamper Avatar

    I so wanted to pick the Snickers commercial until I listened to it. And I had forgotten how much I used to enjoy Allan Sherman performances. But Olivia Newton John is so good and has such a long standing connection to our family which she knows nothing about, that I have to go with her version.

    1. Herb Avatar

      She always had a real singing voice and the way she sang this gave me chills.

  8. Chel Owens Avatar

    I’ve often wondered about the song’s history. Thanks for filling me in, and saving me from actually doing research work of my own! 😉

    1. Herb Avatar

      Hahaha! Happy to help!

  9. J P Avatar

    There is a street in my neighborhood called “Greenleaves”. Even though it lacks an important “s”, this song goes through my head every time I see that sign.

    Who doesn’t love Alan Sherman?

    1. Herb Avatar

      Allan Sherman was a genius!

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