I'm Forever Blowing Bubbles

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"I'm Forever Blowing Bubbles"
I'm Forever Blowing Bubbles (sheet music cover).jpeg
Sheet music cover, 1919
Song by Selvin's Novelty Orchestra
PublishedJanuary 4, 1919 (1919-01-04) Kendis, Brockman Music Co., New York,[1] Jerome H. Remick & Co.[2]
ReleasedOctober 1919[3]
RecordedJuly 31, 1919, take 7[4]
StudioVictor Studios, New York City
GenreJazz Dance Band
LabelVictor 18603[3]
Composer(s)John William Kellette
Lyricist(s)Jaan Kenbrovin (alias for James Brockman, James Kendis, Nat Vincent)

"I'm Forever Blowing Bubbles" is a popular American song written in 1918, released in late 1919, becoming a number one hit for Ben Selvin's Novelty Orchestra. It has been revived and adapted over the years, serving as the anthem of Premier League club, West Ham United.


The music was composed by John Kellette in 1918. The lyrics are credited to "Jaan Kenbrovin" — actually a collective pseudonym for the writers James Kendis, James Brockman and Nat Vincent, combining the first three letters of each lyricist's last name. The number debuted in the Broadway musical, The Passing Show of 1918, and it was introduced by Helen Carrington.[5]

The copyright to "I'm Forever Blowing Bubbles" was registered in 1919 by the Kendis-Brockman Music Co. Inc. It was transferred later that year to Jerome H. Remick & Co. of New York and Detroit. James Kendis, James Brockman, and Nat Vincent all had separate contracts with their own publishers, leading them to use the name Jaan Kenbrovin for credit on this song. James Kendis and James Brockman were partners in the Kendis-Brockman Music Company.


Sheet music cover featuring June Caprice

The waltz was a major Tin Pan Alley hit, and was performed and recorded by several singers and bands in late 1919 and 1920. Ben Selvin's Novelty Orchestra held number one for four weeks late in 1919, and ranked number 6 for the year. The Original Dixieland Jass Band recording of the number is an unusual early example of jazz in 3/4 time.

The writer Ring Lardner parodied the lyric during the Black Sox scandal of 1919, when he began to suspect that players on the Chicago White Sox (a United States-based baseball team) were deliberately losing the World Series to the Cincinnati Reds.[6] His version began: "I'm forever blowing ballgames".

The song also became a hit with the public in British music halls and theatres during the early 1920s. Dorothy Ward was especially renowned for making the song famous with her appearances at these venues. The song was also used by English comedian "Professor" Jimmy Edwards as his signature tune—played on the trombone. Harpo Marx would play the song on clarinet, which would then begin emitting bubbles. The melody is quoted in the 1920s song "Singing in the Bathtub", and has frequently been used in animated cartoon sound tracks during bubble-related scenes; it is also repeatedly sung by Tweety Bird.

The song features extensively in the 1931 prohibition gangster movie The Public Enemy, starring James Cagney. It also was sung by a white bird in the Merrie Melodies cartoon I Love to Singa. The song is also sung in the 1951 film On Moonlight Bay, starring Doris Day and Gordon MacRae, which was the prequel to the 1953 film By the Light of the Silvery Moon. A parody of the song was written and performed as "I'm Forever Blowing Bubble-Gum" by Spike Jones and his City Slickers. In Ken Russell's 1969 film Women in Love the song is featured in an unusual scene where two sisters, played by Glenda Jackson and Jennie Linden, wander away from a large picnic gathering and are confronted by a herd of cattle. In the early 1970s, the Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band's stage show featured a robot that sang the air while blowing bubbles. A solo guitar rendition is periodically featured within the action of Woody Allen's 1999 film Sweet and Lowdown.[7] Director Brad Mays paid homage to that scene in his 2008 film The Watermelon, in which actress Kiersten Morgan sings the song while dancing on a Malibu beach.[8]


The original lyrics (as per the first publication)[9]

Verse 1[edit]

I'm dreaming dreams,
I'm scheming schemes,
I'm building castles high.
They're born anew,
Their days are few,
Just like a sweet butterfly.
And as the daylight is dawning,
They come again in the morning.


I'm forever blowing bubbles,
Pretty bubbles in the air,
They fly so high,
Nearly reach the sky,
Then like my dreams,
They fade and die.
Fortune's always hiding,
I've looked everywhere,
I'm forever blowing bubbles,
Pretty bubbles in the air.


I'm forever blowing bubbles,
Pretty bubbles in the air.
They fly so high,
Nearly reach the sky,
Then like my dreams,
They fade and die.
Fortune's always hiding,
I've looked everywhere,
I'm forever blowing bubbles,
Pretty bubbles in the air.

West Ham United connection[edit]

The song is well known in England as the club anthem of West Ham United, a London-based football club. It is said to have been adopted by West Ham's supporters in the 1920s (although there is no record of West Ham fans singing the song until 1940),[10] and it is now one of the most recognisable club anthems in English football, alongside songs similarly adopted by other clubs, such as "Keep Right on to the End of the Road", "You'll Never Walk Alone", "Blue Moon", "Blue Is the Colour", "On the Ball, City" and "Blaydon Races".

"I'm Forever Blowing Bubbles" was played in various football grounds by marching bands in the 1920s, for example at Swansea and West Ham's rival Millwall.[11] The song was introduced to West Ham by former manager Charlie Paynter in the late 1920s. A player, Billy J. "Bubbles" Murray, who played for the local Park School had a resemblance to the boy in the "Bubbles" painting by Millais used in a Pears soap commercial of the time. Headmaster Cornelius Beal began singing the tune "I'm Forever Blowing Bubbles" with amended lyrics when Park players played well.[12] Beal was a friend of Paynter, while Murray was a West Ham trialist and played football at schoolboy level with a number of West Ham players such as Jim Barrett. Through this contrivance of association, the club's fans took it upon themselves to begin singing the popular music hall tune before home games, sometimes reinforced by the presence of a house band requested to play the refrain by Paynter.[12]

In 1980, as a tribute to West Ham United, the punk rock band the Cockney Rejects covered the song. The song is also heard in the movie Green Street Hooligans and at the end of episode 6 of series 3 of Ashes to Ashes, which took place in 1983 and featured the death of a West Ham United supporter.[citation needed]

In 2006, at the final match at Arsenal F.C.'s Highbury stadium, Arsenal supporters broke into song to celebrate West Ham's defeat of Tottenham which secured Arsenal's spot in the Champions League on the last day.[citation needed] Similarly, Blackburn Rovers were heard singing "Bubbles" in their dressing room after West Ham assisted them winning the Premier League in 1995 having held Manchester United to a 1–1 draw on the final day of the season, led by Tony Gale (an eleven-year West Ham veteran who had moved to Blackburn earlier in the season).[13]

On 16 May 1999, prior to a home game against Middlesbrough, 23,680 fans in the Boleyn Ground blew bubbles for a minute, setting a new world record.[14]

On 27 July 2012, during the Olympics Opening Ceremony, "I'm Forever Blowing Bubbles" was used as part of the soundtrack to the event at the London Olympic Stadium.[15]

On 1 September 2018, to mark the centennial of the song's original debut, Alex Mendham & His Orchestra performed a special arrangement of "I'm Forever Blowing Bubbles" at the London Stadium.[16]

Shriners International connection[edit]

In North America, the song played a part in the foundation of the Shriners Hospitals for Children, which are owned and operated by Shriners International, a Freemasonry-related organisation.

At their 1920 Imperial Session (national convention), Freeland Kendrick proposed a unified charitable mission for the Shriners fraternity by building an orthopedic hospital for children. The idea had come to him after visiting the Texas Scottish Rite Hospital for Children, which primarily treated children suffering the devastating effects of polio. He was shocked to learn that there were not enough hospitals specialising in care for children, especially those suffering from polio.

When he made the proposal, many expressed doubts; with the prospects of the plan being approved fading fast, Forrest Adair then spoke: “I was lying in bed yesterday morning, about four o’clock, and some poor fellow who had strayed from the rest of the band stood down there under the window for 25 minutes playing "I’m Forever Blowing Bubbles".” Adair said that when he awoke later that morning he thought again of the wandering musician. “I wondered if there were not a deep significance in the tune that he was playing for Shriners… I’m Forever Blowing Bubbles.” Adair continued, “While we have spent money for songs and for bands, it is time for the Shriners to spend money for humanity. ... Let us get rid of all the technical objections. And if there is a Shriner in North America who objects to having paid the two dollars after he has seen the first crippled child helped, I will give him a check back for it myself.” Adair sat down to the sound of thunderous applause. In that moment, the tide had turned; the resolution was passed unanimously.

A committee chosen to determine the site and personnel for the Shriners Hospital concluded that there should not be just one hospital, but a network of hospitals throughout North America. When the committee brought the proposal to the 1921 Imperial Session in Des Moines, Iowa, it too was passed.[17][18]

Sparta Warriors connection[edit]

In Norway, the song is known as the club anthem of Sparta Warriors, a Sarpsborg-based ice hockey club.

The Norwegian version of the song, rewritten and performed by Kai Robert Johansen, is titled "Blå Bobler" (Blue Bubbles).


Recordings of the song include:

Singles chart success[edit]

"I'm Forever Blowing Bubbles"
I'm Forever Blowing Bubbles cover.jpg
Single by Cockney Rejects
B-side"West Side Boys"
LabelEMI Records (UK)
Songwriter(s)John Kellette, James Kendis, James Brockman, Nat Vincent
Producer(s)Chris Briggs
Cockney Rejects singles chronology
"The Greatest Cockney Rip Off"
"I'm Forever Blowing Bubbles"
"We Can Do Anything"

Versions of the song have charted in the UK Singles Chart on two occasions, both coinciding with an FA Cup Final appearance by West Ham United. On 10 May 1975 a version recorded by the West Ham 1975 FA Cup Final squad entered the chart at number 31,[19] only staying in the top 40 for one week. For the 1980 FA Cup Final appearance the Cockney Rejects version of the song entered the charts at number 35 on 31 May 1980,[20] again only staying in the top 40 for the one week.


  1. ^ Library of Congress. Copyright Office. (1919). Catalog of Copyright Entries, 1919 Music First Half of 1919 New Series Vol 14 Part 3. United States Copyright Office. U.S. Govt. Print. Off.
  2. ^ ""I'm Forever Blowing Bubbles"". National Museum of American History. Retrieved 2021-08-02.
  3. ^ a b "Victor 18603 (Black label (popular) 10-in. double-faced) - Discography of American Historical Recordings". adp.library.ucsb.edu. Retrieved 2021-10-20.
  4. ^ "Victor matrix B-22966. I'm forever blowing bubbles / Selvin's Novelty Orchestra - Discography of American Historical Recordings". adp.library.ucsb.edu. Retrieved 2021-08-02.
  5. ^ Jasen, David A. (1988). Tin Pan Alley; the Composers the Songs the Performers and their Times. New York: Donald I. Fine. p. 183. ISBN 1556110995.
  6. ^ "Entry for Ring Lardner at the Baseball Library". Baseballlibrary.com. Archived from the original on 2007-05-28. Retrieved 2011-08-14.
  7. ^ "Sweet and Lowdown". IMDb.com. 10 March 2000. Retrieved 24 October 2021.
  8. ^ "IMDbPro". Pro.imdb.com. Retrieved 2011-08-14.
  9. ^ "I'm forever blowing bubbles; Passing show of 1918 [Historic American Sheet Music]". Library.duke.edu. Retrieved 24 October 2021.
  10. ^ Brown, Paul (23 March 2016). "Why West Ham fans sing 'I'm Forever Blowing Bubbles'". Fourfourtwo.com.
  11. ^ Nannestad, Ian (8 January 2016). "'Bubbles', 'Abe my boy' and 'the Fowler war cry': singing at the Vetch Field in the 1920s". In Anthony Bateman (ed.). Sport, Music, Identities. Routledge. pp. 33–34. ISBN 9781315763149.
  12. ^ a b John Helliar. "The Story of Bubbles". West Ham United. Archived from the original on 28 May 2010.
  13. ^ Sharratt, Ben (2010). Bring Me the Head of Trevor Brooking: Three Decades of East End Soap Opera ... Random House. ISBN 978-1845966614.
  14. ^ "World Bubble Records". Bubble Blowers Museum. Bubblin' Marilyn. 28 April 2008. Retrieved 14 August 2011.
  15. ^ "West Ham United statement". West Ham United FC. Archived from the original on 30 July 2012. Retrieved 28 July 2012.
  16. ^ "West Ham-supporting bandleader Alex celebrates Bubbles' 100th birthday". West Ham United FC. Retrieved 1 September 2018.
  17. ^ "Shriners International: A Historic Decision". Shriners International.
  18. ^ "Forrest Adair: I'm Forever Blowing Bubbles". Midnightfreemasons.org. Retrieved 24 October 2021.
  19. ^ "UK Singles Chart 10th May 1975". Official Charts Company. 1975-05-10. Retrieved 2011-08-14.
  20. ^ "UK Singles Chart 31st May 1980". Official Charts Company. 1980-05-31. Retrieved 2011-08-14.

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