Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes on Throwback Thursday

This classic tune comes recommended by Editor Alina Celeste, mostly in the hopes that she can finally get the ear-worm out of her head! (32 years and counting)

Photo: U.S. Marines leading the children of Marifu Hoikuen, a Kindergarden School in downtown Iwakuni, in Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes in 2011. Image from Wikimedia

The real question is, does anyone not know this song? A quick internet search will lead you to believe that the answer is no. Everyone on the planet knows this song. I even posit that it has been tormenting most people as a permanent ear-worm since childhood, or at least, since 1961. The melody comes from an old drinking song, first documented in the 1883 edition of William H. HillsStudent Songs.

There is a Tavern in the Town is a silly, rollicking classic. It’s undeniable melody has been adopted many times, but it remained a song purely intended for an adult audience until the early 1960’s. I couldn’t find a record of the creative teacher who must have written the kid-friendly and infinitely useful version we all know today. I wonder if that person knows what a phenomena they created!

Before the song took over kindergartens everywhere, Rudy Valeé recorded it in 1934. The first time, he couldn’t get through the whole song without laughing. To our everlasting luck, he released both versions, and so for your enjoyment, here is Rudy Valeé singing  There Is a Tavern In The Town (The Drunkard Song), and laughing his you-know-what-off.


  1. Wow! I never made the connection!!

  2. Fun. I use Heads Shoulders as a crossing-the-midline exercise by having the kids successively touch opposite shoulders, then knees, then toes in three repetitions of the song.

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