This song tells the whimsical story of a goatherd whose yodelling is heard from far off and by passers-by, until he falls in love with a girl who wears a pale-pink coat, with her mother joining in the yodelling.
This song has been sung at different points in the musical depending on the production. In the 1959 Broadway production, Maria (played by Mary Martin) sings the song in the children's bedroom to comfort them during a storm, while in the 1965 film Maria (played by Julie Andrews) and the children sing it as part of a marionette show they perform for their father. (A different song, "My Favorite Things", is performed in the bedroom for the film version.)
Many subsequent stage productions have placed this song at different points in the musical. In the 1981 West End revival with Petula Clark, Maria and the children sing it at a fair, and in the 1998 Broadway revival with Rebecca Luker it is sung at the Salzburg Festival concert, replacing what would have been an intricate Bach-sounding reprise of "Do Re Mi", showing how exemplary the Von Trapp children were at singing difficult choral compositions. Here, the vocal arrangements were by Jeanine Tesori, giving the audience an idea of how versatile they were.
The lively number reappears later in both the original stage version and the film version as a deliberately paced and very Austrian-sounding instrumental, the Ländler, a dance performed by the Captain and Maria. It then serves as the catalyst to a dramatic juncture in the film, as the young apprentice nun Maria realizes that she is in love with the Captain.
The famous marionette puppetry sequence in the film was produced and performed by the leading puppeteers of the day, Bil Baird and Cora Eisenberg.
The song is a well-known example of yodeling, which is a part of the traditional music of the Austrian Alps, where the musical is set. The lyrics are also well-known and widely quoted, especially the opening line, "High on a hill was a lonely goatherd."