The Green Grass Grows All Around on Throwback Thursday

Today Blog Editor Alina Celeste shares a favorite of hers, the classic The Green Grass Grows All Around, a perfect song for Spring.

Photo by Sarah McGuire
Photo by Sarah McGuire

I’ve been a Teaching Artist and Family Musician for a few years now, and a lot of songs live in my head. Some stay quietly in the their place and others have a tendency to pop out, unbidden, reminding me in an endless loop that they are there and need to be sung. It’s especially fun at 3am.

This song has been in my head since long before I began working with children and music. Probably since kindergarten. Maybe earlier. I’m also not entirely sure it has ever sat quietly in its place. Luckily for me, it’s a welcome companion. Hearing it always makes me smile, and in my mind I can hear the giggles of the thousands of kids I have sung it with and see the blue skies and sunny days that often inspired it. Kids usually love trying to get through the verse as it gets longer and longer, tripping up over the branch and the limb, the feather and the wing. It belongs to that delightful genre, cumulative songs, that will ever be popular in the classroom, partly because they’re great time killers.

CoverGreen A little internet research revealed that this song has deep roots. It was first published in 1912, with words by William Jerome and melody by Harry Von Tilzer. Originally a love song, it tells the story of a young couple lying in the grass, planning their lives. It does have a strong, probably not coincidental connection to the old Irish Tune, Rattlin’ Bog. They share the same cumulative lyrics.

Even in its current incarnation, this song is about the celebration of young life, and the nature of the world to carry on. The tree grows, the egg hatches, the baby bird flies.  I found two versions in particular that I really enjoyed, one is by Melissa Etheridge, from a concert she participated in in 1993. The second is by Louis Jordan. Two very different versions, from two eras in American music that initially seem pretty disparate. That’s the nature of a good song though, it can be taken and made a product of any fashion, any era, because the melody is good and true. April, the month when Summer is finally a thing you can believe will happen again, seems a perfect time to celebrate this song.

In the Melissa Etheridge version, we get a fun little cameo of a young, gangly Neil Patrick Harris:

Louis Jordan, making the song his swinging own: