O mein Papa
"O mein Papa" is a German song, as related by a young woman remembering her beloved, once-famous clown father. It was written by Swiss composer Paul Burkhard in 1939 for the musical Der Schwarze Hecht (The Black Pike), reproduced in 1950 as Feuerwerk (Fireworks) to a libretto by Erik Charell, Jürg Amstein, and Robert Gilbert. In 1954, that musical was turned into the film Feuerwerk with Lilli Palmer.
It was adapted into English by John Turner and Geoffrey Parsons under the title "Oh! My Pa-Pa". A recording by Eddie Fisher with Hugo Winterhalter's orchestra & chorus was made at Webster Hall, New York City, on December 12, 1953. It was released by RCA Victor Records as catalog number 20-5552 (in USA) and by EMI on the His Master's Voice label as catalog number B 10614.
Fisher's recording became a #1 hit on the U.S. Billboard charts in 1954. Fisher's version also made the UK Top 10; thus, in the UK, Calvert's version was number one while Fisher's made the top 10, but missed the top spot, and in the U.S., the opposite occurred. Calvert's version was the first UK number one hit recorded at Abbey Road Studios. The song returned to Abbey Road when Brian Fahey conducted an instrumental version in the summer of 1960 to be used as a backing track for Connie Francis' English-Yiddish recording for her album Connie Francis Sings Jewish Favorites. Francis overdubbed her vocals in Hollywood. In June 1966, Francis overdubbed the same playback once more, this time with the original German lyrics for her German concept album Melodien, die die Welt erobern.
U.S. television viewers were re-introduced to the song via the television show Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C.. In the episode "Sing a Song of Papa", Jim Nabors' Private Pyle enters a talent contest at a nightclub. His rendition of the song wins him $25 and the admiration of the club's owner, who is apparently connected to organized crime, and predictable hijinks ensue.
The song has been performed and recorded by numerous artists since its debut, including Alan Breeze, Billy Cotton, Billy Vaughn, The Everly Brothers, Harry James, Guy Mitchell, Lys Assia, Malcolm Vaughan, Muriel Smith, Ray Anthony & his Orchestra, Russ Morgan & his Orchestra, The Beverley Sisters, Siouxsie and the Banshees, Björk (on Gling-Gló, as "Pabbi minn") and many others. Wilma Landkroon sang a Dutch version ("Oh mijn Papa"), on the CD 19 Successen.
The original German version of the song contains passages that more fully give the context to the listener; these don't appear in the English translation. It contains fractured grammar, confusing masculine and feminine nouns and adjectives, as if sung by a non-native German speaker, perhaps to heighten the tragicomic effect and to emphasize the old German cliché that circus people are always of non-German heritage.
- Rice, Jo (1982). The Guinness Book of 500 Number One Hits (1st ed.). Enfield, Middlesex: Guinness Superlatives Ltd. p. 12. ISBN 0-85112-250-7.
- "Oh! My Pa-Pa" score title page
- RCA Victor Records in the 20-5500 to 20-5999 series
- "Just Another Band From L.A. – Billy The Mountain". Robbert Heederik. Retrieved 4 June 2008.
- Chen, Raymond. "Like Father, Like Clown". The Simpsons Archive. Retrieved 30 June 2008.