Brown Girl in the Ring (song)

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"Brown Girl in the Ring"
Boney M. - Rivers of Babylon (1978 single).jpg
Single by Boney M.
from the album Nightflight to Venus
A-side"Rivers of Babylon"
Released3 April 1978
GenreDisco, R&B, reggae
LabelHansa (FRG)
Sire (USA)
Atlantic (AUS)
Songwriter(s)Frank Farian
Producer(s)Frank Farian
Boney M. singles chronology
"Brown Girl in the Ring"
"Brown Girl in the Ring (Remix '93)"
Boney M. - Brown Girl In The Ring (Remix '93).jpg
Single by Boney M.
from the album Gold – 20 Super Hits
Released1 April 1993
GenreDisco, R&B, reggae
LabelBMG (FRG)
Songwriter(s)Franz Reuther (Frank Farian)
Producer(s)Frank Farian
Boney M. singles chronology
"Brown Girl in the Ring (Remix '93)"
"Ma Baker (Remix)"

"Brown Girl in the Ring" is a traditional children's song in the West Indies. It was originally featured in the game of the same name, thought to have originated in Jamaica.[1]

The song became internationally known when it was recorded by the group Boney M. in 1978. Originally it was the B-side of their hit "Rivers of Babylon", but soon became a hit in its own right.

The song had previously been recorded by the group Malcolm's Locks, leading to a dispute over royalties. The song had also been recorded in 1972 by the Bahamian musician Exuma.


Children play ring games in many parts of the world, especially during their pre-teen years. In There's a Brown Girl in the Ring, an anthology of Eastern Caribbean song games by Alan Lomax, J.D. Elder and Bess Lomax Hawes, it is suggested that ring games are a children's precursor to adult courtship.

Players form a ring by holding hands, then one child goes into the middle of the ring and starts skipping or walking around to the song. Someone in the ring says, "Show me your motion". At this point the child in the centre does their favourite dance. If told "Show me your partner", they pick a friend to join them in the circle. It has been played for many centuries in all of Jamaica.[citation needed]

Boney M. recording[edit]

Arguably the most popular version of the song, Boney M.'s recording was originally the B-side to the group's number-one hit single "Rivers of Babylon" (1978). In July 1978, following ten weeks in UK Top Ten, five of them at number one, "Rivers of Babylon" slipped to number 18 and then to 20, when radio stations flipped the single. Airplay for "Brown Girl in the Ring" resulted in a happy chart reversal, with the single re-entering the Top Ten, where it would spend an additional nine weeks, peaking at number two in September.[2] Liz Mitchell had previously recorded the song in 1975 with the group Malcolm's Locks, as the B-side of their single "Caribbean Rock". Mitchell's ex-boyfriend Malcolm Magaron was the group's lead singer. Arranger Peter Herbolzheimer accused Frank Farian of stealing his arrangement for the song, for which Farian claimed credit on the single.[3] The court case ran for more than 20 years in Germany.

The early single version (1st pressing) released on the Diamond CD box-set in 2015 features the full-length 4:18 version. The single mix is also slightly different from the album version: the latter features steel drums on the outro riff of the song whereas the single mix does not. The four-minute single hit version (2nd pressing) has yet to appear on CD (as of July 2018). Rivers of Babylon/Brown Girl in the Ring single is the sixth best-selling single of all time in the UK with sales of 2 million.[4]

1993 remix[edit]

Following the successful sales of the compilation album Gold – 20 Super Hits, Frank Farian remixed "Brown Girl in the Ring" for a single release, April 1993. The remix featured new lead vocals by Liz Mitchell and reached number 6 in Denmark and 38 in the UK, while failing to chart in Germany. The single also included a new remix of "The Calendar Song".


12" single

  • "Brown Girl in the Ring (Remix '93)" (MCI/BMG 74321 13705 1, 1993)

Side A

  1. "Brown Girl in the Ring" (Funny Girl Club Mix) – 5:35
  2. "The Calendar Song (January, February, March...)" (Remix '93) – 3:14

Side B

  1. "Brown Girl in the Ring" (Club Mix – Rap Version) – 5:35
  2. "Brown Girl in the Ring" (Radio Version) – 3:58

"Brown Girl in the Ring (Remix '93)" (MCI/BMG 74321 13705 2, 1993)

    1. "Brown Girl in the Ring" (Radio Version) – 3:58
    2. "Brown Girl in the Ring" (Funny Girl Club Mix) – 5:35
    3. "Brown Girl in the Ring" (Club Mix - Rap Version) – 5:35
    4. "The Calendar Song (January, February, March...)" (Remix '93) – 3:14


  • Lord Invader, a calypsonian from Trinidad, recorded a version circa 1946–1947 in New York. The recording is now part of the Smithsonian Folkways collection and was only released in 2000 on Lord Invader Calypso in New York CD.
  • Jamaican poet, actress and singer Louise Bennett recorded the song in 1957 on an album of Children's Jamaican Songs and Games, re-released by Smithsonian Folkways (2007)
  • The Belize-born actress and singer Nadia Cattouse performed the song on her eponymous album, released in Britain in 1966.
  • Exuma recorded "Brown Girl" on his second album "Reincarnation" in 1972. Exuma claims to be the original artist to have recorded Brown Girl in the Ring. He claims that his version of Brown Girl in the Ring was re-recorded by Boney M without the permission of Exuma. The lawsuit has gone on for over 20 years.[citation needed]
  • The Maytones released a single of the song arranged by Alvin Ranglin in 1972
  • Malcolms Locks (which included a member of the future group Boney M) released a version in 1975, see above
  • Boney M. released a version in 1978, see above
  • The Wiggles, an Australian children's band, in Big Red Car, 1995.[5]
  • The 1997 Smurfs Album 'The Smurfs Go Pop Again' featured a parody version on the song called "Shy Smurfs in The Ring"
  • Australian rapper Iggy Azalea sampled elements for the song "Goddess" on her debut album The New Classic in 2014.
  • Other versions have been done by Brotherhood of Man, Raffi, Dan Zanes, Kathy Hampson's Free Elastic Band, & the Minipops.
  • Jurassic 5, a Southern California-based hip-hop group, has a song titled "Brown Girl" which refers to the original song in its chorus.
  • Austrian Waterloo & Robinson covered the song in German, using Boney M.'s original backing track and backing vocals.

In popular culture[edit]

  • The song is featured in the film Touching the Void when mountaineer Joe Simpson worries he is succumbing to madness or death. He recalls: "I remember thinking, bloody hell, I'm going to die to Boney M".
  • In the short story The Solar Room, by Marco Vinicio Aragonés, the characters are obsessed with the rhythm of this song.
  • Nalo Hopkinson's first novel Brown Girl in the Ring features Afro-Caribbean themes.



  1. ^ "Brown Girl in the Ring – Jamaican Children's Songs – Jamaica - Mama Lisa's World: Children's Songs and Rhymes from Around the World". Retrieved 13 October 2016.
  2. ^ "Official Singles Chart Top 75 - Official Charts Company". Official Charts Company.
  3. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 6 October 2008. Retrieved 2008-09-18.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  4. ^ Ami Sedghi (4 November 2012). "UK's million-selling singles: the full list". Guardian. Retrieved 4 November 2012.
  5. ^ "Big red car [sound recording] / the Wiggles. - Version details – Trove". Retrieved 13 October 2016.
  6. ^ "Brown girl in the ring in Canadian Adult Contemporary Chart". Library and Archives Canada. Archived from the original on 24 October 2017. Retrieved 10 July 2013.
  7. ^ "Brown girl in the ring in Canadian Top Singles Chart". Library and Archives Canada. Archived from the original on 25 October 2017. Retrieved 10 July 2013.
  8. ^ " – Boney M. – Brown Girl In The Ring (Remix '93)" (in Dutch). Ultratop 50.
  9. ^ "Top 10 Denmark" (PDF). Music & Media. Retrieved 22 March 2018.
  10. ^ "in Irish Chart". IRMA. Archived from the original on 3 June 2009. Retrieved 10 July 2013. 1st result when searching "Brown girl in the ring "
  11. ^ " – Boney M. – Brown Girl In The Ring (Remix '93)". Top 40 Singles.
  12. ^ "1993 Top 40 Official UK Singles Archive - 17th April 1993". Official Charts Company. Retrieved 10 July 2013.


External links[edit]