Frère Jacques in popular culture

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The song "Frère Jacques" often appears in popular culture. "Frère Jacques" is one of the most widely known songs on earth, and it can be found many places in modern world culture. For example:

  • A version of the tune appears in the third movement of the Symphony No. 1 by Gustav Mahler. Mahler presents the melody in a minor key instead of a major key, thus giving the piece the character of a funeral march or dirge; however, the mode change to minor might not have been an invention by Mahler, as is often believed, but rather the way this round was sung in the 19th century and early 20th century in Austria.[1][2] Francesca Draughon and Raymond Knapp argue[3] that Mahler had changed the key to make Frère Jacques sound more "Jewish" (Mahler converted to Catholicism from Judaism). Draughon and Knapp claim that the tune was originally sung to mock non-Catholics, such as Protestants or Jews. Mahler himself called the tune "Bruder Martin", and made some allusions to the piece being related to a parody in the programs he wrote for the performances.[4] Interpretations similar to this are quite prevalent in academia and in musical circles.[5]
  • The French performer known as Le Pétomane entertained live audiences in the late 19th and early 20th centuries with his own unique rendition, according to the BBC.[6]
  • "Frère Jacques" has led to many parodies. For example, Allan Sherman is noted for writing new lyrics based on typical Jewish-American family gossip and small talk. The resulting song, "Sarah Jackman", led to Sherman's career in musical parody.
  • In season 6 episode of The Nanny, "Yetta's Letters", the character Sylvia Fine references the lyrics of the song while she is in Paris.
  • Henri Bernstein, a French playwright, wrote a comedic play entitled Frère Jacques (translated as Brother Jacques) with Pierre Véber in 1904.[7][8]
  • Mon Frère Jacques was a French comedic film directed by Marcel Manchez, and released in 1925.[9]
  • Frère Jacques is a type of semi-soft cow's milk cheese with a mild hazelnut taste, produced by Benedictine monks from the Saint-Benoit-du-lac Abbey in Quebec, Canada.[10]
  • In a 1988 speech to previously skeptical British Trade Union Congress delegates, President of the European Commission Jacques Delors successfully persuaded the British trade union hierarchy that workers rights would be better protected if collective bargaining was conducted at the Europe-wide rather than national-wide level. He was given a standing ovation, and the crowd broke into this song.
  • The "Mouseketeer" series of Tom and Jerry cartoons released from 1952 to 1958 featured French renditions sung by Francoise Brun-Cottan in her portrayal of the young gray mouse Tuffy, in the Oscar-nominated Touché, Pussy Cat! and in Royal Cat Nap.
  • Four French singers, brothers André and Georges Bellec, François Soubeyran and Paul Tourenne formed a comedic singing group in 1944 known as the Frères Jacques, even though none of them were named "Jacques". The group name was a bit of a play on words since a common French expression, "faire le jacques", means to act like a clown. They had successful careers over the next few decades.[11]
  • Leonard Bernstein made use of the song to illustrate counterpoint in his television program What Makes Music Symphonic?[12][13] (one of a series of 53 programs, the Young People's Concerts with the New York Philharmonic, combining music and lectures that were televised between 1959 and 1972).
  • The demonstrators in Tiananmen Square chanted political slogans to the tune of "Frère Jacques".[14]
  • There is a strong oral tradition among children in China, Vietnam and other places in Asia of passing on songs with their own lyrics, sung to the tune of "Frère Jacques".[15] For example, one of the most popular versions of the lyric among Chinese children is about "two tigers" (两只老虎).
  • In the background of the Beatles' song "Paperback Writer" one can hear George Harrison and John Lennon singing "Frère Jacques".
  • The Wildhearts' song "You Are Proof That Not All Women Are Insane" from their 2009 album ¡Chutzpah! ends with a rock-style rendition of "Frère Jacques" in Danish.
  • Brian Wilson's song "Surf's Up" references "Frère Jacques".
  • Not to be outdone by his heroes above, Jeff Lynne added a recording of Dutch children singing "Frère Jacques" to "Hello My Old Friend", an unreleased track from the Electric Light Orchestra's Secret Messages album.
  • Frère Jacques is the name of a chain of franchised French restaurants in the UK[16] and the name of a French restaurant in the Murray Hill section of New York City.[17] Les Frères Jacques is the name of a French restaurant in Dublin.[18]
  • The post-punk group Television Personalities used "Frère Jacques" as the chorus to their song "Hello Edward", found on their album Paisley Shirts & Mini Skirts (1996).
  • Ron Haselden, a British artist living in the French town of Brizard, in Brittany, has produced a well-known interactive multimedia piece featuring "Frère Jacques" in collaboration with Peter Cusack.[19]
  • The Frère version of the Jerusalem computer virus plays "Frère Jacques" if the day is Friday or on the 13th of any month.
  • The Matthew Shipp Quartet jazz group's album Pastoral Composure in the year 2000 includes a piece called Frère Jacques that draws on the "Frère Jacques" melody.
  • The Chinese song "Dadao lie qiang" ("Cut down the great powers", or rather: "Let's beat together the great powers", also known as 'The "Revolution of the Citizens" Song') celebrates the cooperation in China in the 1920s of Mao Zedong's Chinese Communist Party and the Kuomintang against warlords and imperialist powers, and is sung to the tune of "Frère Jacques".[20]
  • In the animated television series Justice League (episode "Only a Dream"), Batman hums "Frère Jacques" to ward off Doctor Destiny's telepathic sleeping powers.
  • Argentine composer Juan Maria Solare's piece "Frère Jacques the Ripper (deconstructing the Canon) for Flute, Clarinet, Violin and Cello" transforms the familiar "Frère Jacques" melody by altering the speed, the tonality, the key, inverting the tune and applying fractal transformations to the tune. This piece was performed in Cologne in 2003.
  • The song is sung in the episode "Disaster" of Star Trek: The Next Generation by Captain Picard and children aboard the Enterprise, and played by Picard and Lt. Cmdr. Nella Daren (flute–piano duet) in the episode "Lessons." Captain Picard also plays this song when living the life of a man named Kaiman in the episode "The Inner Light".
  • British military cadets have traditionally sung the tune with different words as a taunt to visiting French military cadets during visits to British military academies. The words are the names of British military victories over the French:
Agincourt, Agincourt
Crecy too; Crecy too
Nile and Trafalgar, Nile and Trafalgar
Waterloo. Waterloo.
  • Don Draper is teased by Roger Sterling with "Frère Jacques" in the Mad Men fifth season premiere after Draper's wife sings French pop song Zou Bisou Bisou at a party.
  • The melody is played in "The Sky Cried/When I Was a Boy" by psychedelic rock band Vanilla Fudge, from their album Renaissance.
  • An episode from Peppa Pig featured a French character named Delphine Donkey singing this song to Peppa.
  • It is a playable song in the video game Wii Music.
  • The Wiggles sing this song in different ways whether they're on the phone or Anthony plays the Maton acoustic guitar.
  • Bill Haley & His Comets used the melody of this song for their 1958 composition "Vive la Rock and Roll", which was released on their album Rockin' Around the World and later performed with Catarina Valente in the 1959 German movie Hier bin ich - hier bleib' ich (Here I Am, Here I Stay) released by Central Cinema Company Film (CCC).
  • The background music for the level Monumental Disaster in the Playstation video game Twisted Metal 2 is a hard rock remix of the song.
  • The song is sung by Perfect Peter (Emma Tate) in Horrid Henry
  • The song is sung by Perfect Peter (Ross Marron) in many versions in Horrid Henry: The Movie
  • The song is used twice in Until Dawn. The first when a character optionally opens a music box in a bedroom. The second is at the start of the final chapter, when another character begins to go insane from isolation, and symbolizes his guilt at sleeping through his sisters' deaths.
  • The song is among several responses that Cortana on Windows can provide when asked to "sing me a song".


  1. ^ Reinhold Schmid: 50 Kanons. Vienna, n.d. [ca. 1950] (Philharmonia pocket scores No. 86)
  2. ^ Ute Jung-Kaiser: Die wahren Bilder und Chiffren „tragischer Ironie“ in Mahlers „Erster“. In: Günther Weiß (ed.): Neue Mahleriana: essays in honour of Henry-Louis de LaGrange on his seventieth birthday. Lang, Berne etc. 1997, ISBN 3-906756-95-5. pp. 101–152
  3. ^ Mahler and the Crisis of Jewish Identity by Francesca Draughon and Raymond Knapp, ECHO volume III, issue 2 (Fall 2001)
  4. ^ Symphony No. 1 in D major, Composer: Gustav Mahler, Program note originally written for the following performance: National Symphony Orchestra: Leonard Slatkin, conductor/Dotian Levalier, harp/Mahler's First Symphony Jun 7 - 9, 2007 © Richard Freed
  5. ^ MAHLER'S MUSIC, Dean Olsher, of NPR's Morning Edition, July 31, 1998, discusses jazz musician and composer Uri Caine's reinterpretations of Mahler.
  6. ^ You don’t see many of those these days, Joker - Trivia, Follow your Dream, BBC
  7. ^ Columbia Dictionary of Modern European Literature, edited by Jean Albert Bede, William Benbow Edgerton, Columbia University Press, 1980.
  8. ^ Merriam-Webster's Encyclopedia of Literature, Merriam-Webster, Encyclopædia Britannica, ISBN 0-87779-042-6, 1995
  9. ^ Mon Frère Jacques, a film directed by Marcel Manchez, 1925
  10. ^ SAINT BENEDICT-DU-LAC ABBEY, Quebec, Canada website.
  11. ^ Les Frères Jacques, Biography, RFI Musique, March 2004
  12. ^ What Makes Music Symphonic?, Leonard Bernstein, 13 December 1958.
  13. ^ Young People's Concerts, Leonard Bernstein, 1958
  14. ^ Comrade Jiang Zemin does indeed seem a proper choice, Jasper Becker, London Review of Books, Vol. 23 No. 10, 24 May 2001
  15. ^ Eating the mosquito: Transmission of a Chinese children's folksong, David Seubert, Chinoperl papers/Chung-kuo yen chang wen i yen chiu hui lun chi, vol. 16 1992. p. 133-43. ISSN 0193-7774
  16. ^ About Frères Jacques, Frères Jacques Restaurant-Bar-Cafe, a UK franchised restaurant chain (depuis 1994)
  17. ^ Hello and Welcome to the Frère Jacques Website, Frère Jacques Restaurant, Murray Hill section of New York City
  18. ^ Les Frères Jacques, Dublin, Ireland restaurant review
  19. ^ Frère Jacques et autres pièces à Francis: Expositions. 1997. Saint-Fons Ron Haselden, Saint-Fons, Centre d'Arts Plastiques, 1997, ISBN 2-9509357-2-9
  20. ^ Une utilisation insolite de la musique de l'Autre, Pom pom pom pom: Musiques et caetera Neuchatel: Musee d'Ethnographie 1997 p. 227-241.