Old MacDonald Had a Farm

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"Old MacDonald Had a Farm"
Nursery rhyme
Published 1917

"Old MacDonald Had a Farm" is a children's song and nursery rhyme about a farmer named MacDonald (sometimes known as "McDonald" or "Macdonald") and the various animals he keeps on his farm. Each verse of the song changes the name of the animal and its respective noise. In many versions, the song is cumulative, with the animal sounds from all the earlier verses added to each subsequent verse.[1] It has a Roud Folk Song Index number of 745. For example, the verse uses a cow as an animal and "moo" as the animal's sound.

Old MacDonald had a farm
E-I-E-I-O
And on his farm he had a cow
E-I-E-I-O
With a moo-moo here
And a moo-moo there
Here a moo, there a moo
Everywhere a moo-moo
Old MacDonald had a farm
E-I-E-I-O

Early versions[edit]

In the 1917 book Tommy's Tunes, a collection of World War I era songs by F. T. Nettleingham,[2] the song "Ohio" has quite similar lyrics—though with a slightly different farmer's name and refrain:

Old Macdougal had a farm in Ohio-i-o,
And on that farm he had some dogs in Ohio-i-o,
With a bow-wow here, and a bow-wow there,
Here a bow, there a wow, everywhere a bow-wow.

This version lists seven species of animal: some dogs (bow-wow), some hens (cluck cluck), some ducks (quack quack), some cows (moo moo), some pigs (oink oink), some cats (meow meow), and a donkey (hee-haw).[3]

The Traditional Ballad Index consider the Tommy's Tunes version to be the earliest known version of "Old Macdonald Had a Farm", though it cites numerous variants, some of them much older.[1]

Two of these variants were published in Vance Randolph's Ozark Folksongs in 1980. One was "Old Missouri", sung by a Mr. H. F. Walker of Missouri in 1922, a version that names different parts of the mule rather than different animals:

Old Missouri had a mule, he-hi-he-hi-ho,
And on this mule there were two ears, he-hi-he-hi-ho.
With a flip-flop here and a flip-flop there,
And here a flop and there a flop and everywhere a flip-flop
Old Missouri had a mule, he-hi-he-hi-ho.

A British version of the song, called "The Farmyard, or The Merry Green Fields," was collected in 1908 from a 74-year-old Mrs. Goodey at Marylebone Workhouse, London, and published in Cecil Sharp's Collection of English Folk Songs.

Up was I on my fa-ther's farm
On a May day morn-ing ear-ly;
Feed-ing of my fa-ther's cows
On a May day morn-ing ear-ly,
With a moo moo here and a moo moo there,
Here a moo, there a moo, Here a pret-ty moo.
Six pret-ty maids come and gang a-long o' me
To the mer-ry green fields of the farm-yard.

Perhaps the earliest recorded member of this family of songs is a number from an opera called The Kingdom of the Birds, published in 1719-1720 in Thomas D'Urfey's Wit and Mirth, or Pills to Purge Melancholy:

In the Fields in Frost and Snows,
Watching late and early;
There I keep my Father's Cows,
There I Milk 'em Yearly:
Booing here, Booing there,
Here a Boo, there a Boo, every where a Boo,
We defy all Care and Strife,
In a Charming Country-Life.

Translations[edit]

The lyrics have been translated from English into other languages and modified slightly to fit rhythmic and cultural requirements. In most languages below, it is still sung as a children's song to the same tune.

  • An Egyptian Arabic version of the song exists, with Geddo Ali (in Egyptian Arabic: جدو على, meaning "Grandpa Ali") as the farmer character.
  • In Chinese, there are several versions of the song with same tune. The most popular is Wáng lǎo xiānshēng yǒu kuài dì (in Chinese: 王老先生有块地, meaning "Old Mr. Wang had some land").
  • In Czech, it is Strýček Donald farmu měl (meaning "Uncle Donald had a farm").
  • In Danish, it is Jens Hansen havde en bondegård (meaning "Jens Hansen had a farm").
  • In Finnish, it is "Piippolan vaarilla oli talo" (meaning "Grandpa Piippola had a house")
  • In French, it is Dans la ferme de Mathurin (meaning "In Mathurin's farm").
  • In German, it is Onkel Jörg hat einen Bauernhof (meaning "Uncle Jörg has a farm").[4] An alternative version is Old MacDonald hat 'ne Farm (short for eine Farm), keeping the English name of the farmer, and translating the rest quite literally (meaning "Old MacDonald has a farm").
  • In Hebrew, it is LaDod Moshe hayta hava (in Hebrew: לדוד משה הייתה חווה, meaning "Uncle Moshe had a farm"). This version was translated by Avraham Broshi.
  • In Italian, it is Nella vecchia fattoria (meaning "In the old farm"). The farmer is Zio Tobia (meaning "Uncle Tobias").
  • In one Japanese version, it is Yukai-na Makiba (in Japanese: ゆかいな牧場, meaning "Happy farm"). Ichiro, Jiro, and Saburo are the farmers who have animals.
    • In another Japanese version, it is Makku no Ojisan (in Japanese: マックのおじさん, meaning "Old man Mac"), sounds playfully like the Western version.
    • In Kansai Japanese, there is a parody song called Osaka Umaimon no Uta (in Japanese: 大阪うまいもんの歌, meaning "Yummy foods in Osaka") made by an Osakan puppet play troupe in 1993.
  • In Korean, it is Geulae geulaeseo (in Korean: '그래 그래서', meaning "Yes, so"). In this version, the farmer "Old Mr. Park" has a farm and animals.
  • In Malay, it is Pak Atan Ada Ladang (meaning "Uncle Atan had a farm").
  • In Persian, it is پیرمرد مهربون (meaning "Kind old man").
  • In Polish, it is Stary Donald farmę miał (meaning "Old Donald had a farm") or Pan McDonald farmę miał (meaning "Mr. McDonald had a farm").
  • In Portuguese, the most common version is Na quinta do tio Manel (meaning "On the farm of Uncle Manel"), with alternate versions being Seu Lobato tinha um sítio (meaning "Seu Lobato had a site") or even O velho McDonald tinha uma fazenda (meaning "Old MacDonald had a farm").
  • in Russian "Дед МакДональд напевал И-ай,и-ай,О!" Translated by Leonid Zuborev Леонид Зуборев http://www.stihi.ru/2017/12/05/2021
  • In Serbian, the song, with very different lyrics but the same melody, is Svako jutro jedno jaje organizmu snagu daje (meaning "One egg per day gives the strength to human organism").
  • In Slovene, it is Na kmetiji je lepo (meaning "On a farm it is beautiful"). It can be a children's song, but in some versions of the song, the lyrics have been made from childish into vulgar, like a drinking song.
  • Some Spanish versions include En la granja de Pepito (meaning "On the farm of Pepito"), El Viejo MacDonald tenia una granja (meaning "Old MacDonald had a farm"), El granjero tenía un campo (meaning "The farmer had a field"), or En la vieja factoría (meaning "In the old factory").
  • In Swedish, it is Per Olsson hade en bonnagård (meaning "Per Olsson had a farm").
  • In Turkish, it is Ali Baba'nın Bir Çiftliği Var (meaning "Ali Baba has a farm").

Recordings and appearances in media[edit]

The oldest version listed in The Traditional Ballad Index is the Sam Patterson Trio's "Old MacDonald Had a Farm," released on the Edison label in 1925.[5] There have been versions by such well-known artists as Frank Sinatra (Capitol, 1960), Elvis Presley (in his movie Double Trouble), Nat King Cole, and Ella Fitzgerald (on her 1967 Verve album Whisper Not).[6][7][8] A variant was used in a 1952 campaign ad for Adlai Stevenson II's unsuccessful campaign for President with slightly altered lyrics promoting the Stevenson campaign's appeal to farmers.[9] The song is played (with some cast participation) in the 1951 movie The Lavender Hill Mob.[10]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b "Old MacDonald Had a Farm". www.csufresno.edu. 
  2. ^ "Catalog Record: Tommy's tunes; a comprehensive collection of.." Catalog.hathitrust.org. Retrieved 25 June 2016. 
  3. ^ "Ohio," Tommy's Tunes, collected and arranged by F. T. Nettleingham (London, W.C. 1: Erskine Macdonald, Ltd., October 1917), pp. 84–85.
  4. ^ "Onkel Jörg hat einen Bauernhof". Retrieved 24 August 2016. 
  5. ^ "Old macdonald had a farm". 
  6. ^ alan moores (10 July 2009). "Old MacDonald Had A Farm - Spike Jones" – via YouTube. 
  7. ^ "Wonderful World! | The Kelly Family Album | Yahoo! Music". New.music.yahoo.com. Retrieved 19 September 2011. 
  8. ^ "Old MacDonald | Ella...of Thee I Swing". 
  9. ^ "Commercials - 1952 - Let's Not Forget the Farmer". The Living Room Candidate. 29 March 1952. Retrieved 25 June 2016. 
  10. ^ "IMDb Lavender Hill Mob soundtracks". Retrieved 3 February 2017.