The Clapping Song

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"The Clapping Song" is an American song, written by Lincoln Chase, originally arranged by Charles Callello and recorded by Shirley Ellis in 1965. The song was released shortly after Ellis had released "The Name Game". The lyrics of "The Clapping Song" were borrowed from the song "Little Rubber Dolly",[1] a 1930s song recorded by the Light Crust Doughboys, and also feature instructions for a clapping game. The song sold over a million copies and peaked at #8(US) & #6 (UK).

The song returned to the charts in 1982, when the Belle Stars' version charted at number 11 in the U.K. This version did not chart in the U.S. though a version by Pia Zadora charted there at number 36 in 1983.


The song has been covered several times:

  • Gary Glitter covered this song on 3 albums: Glitter in 1972, Glam Years 1991, and Gary Glitter in 1995
  • Female Mexican pop singer Yuri recorded a Spanish version of the song in 1980 titled "Bailad (The Clapping Song)"
  • In 1981 Scottish singer-songwriter Ian Cussick covered the song with the same title, which was released on his 3rd studio album "Hypertension"
  • The Belle Stars covered the song in 1982
  • Pia Zadora's cover of the song entered the top 40 in 1983
  • Aaron Carter released a cover of the song on his 2000 album Aaron's Party (Come Get It). A music video was produced for the song.
  • Lil' Kim performed the song (as Shirley Ellis) on the NBC drama American Dreams October 12, 2003 and danced to the song on the ABC show Dancing With The Stars April 20 and 21, 2009
  • Mother and The Addicts released a cover of this song as the B-side to 2004 single "Who Art You Girls?"
  • The Young Punx covered the song for the Buffet Libre 'Rewind 2' project in late 2008, featuring Laura Kidd on vocals and Guthrie Govan on guitar
  • UK X Factor contestant, Cher Lloyd, performed the song on the final of the show in December 2010
  • Russell Grant released it in 2012 in the UK as a Christmas single along with six backing singers/dancers, including S Club 7's Tina Barrett, Chloe Rich, Miriam Breckner and Rhiannon Drake[2]
  • The Rotters Club recorded a cover which was featured on Skins Secret Party Special
  • The Hip-hop gospel Congolese group Makoma has covered the song
  • Izza Kizza samples the chorus in his song "Walk The Dawg"
  • R&B Singer Cupid did a cover of the song with B.o.B on the Step Up 2 OST which samples Ellis' version
  • Operator Please covered the song for the Australian Independent teen film Hey, Hey, It's Esther Blueburger
  • Baccara recorded a cover with a "Macarena" beat.
  • Andrew W.K. included a re-mixed version in the album Damn! The Mixtape.
  • On Season 1 of The X Factor US, the group InTENsity performed the song during the first live show
  • The Hype Girlz released The Clapping Song on June 15th, 2015
  • Icona Pop released a cover on July 17th, 2015 titled "Clap Snap" on the "Emergency EP"
  • Australian duo Jackson Firebird included a cover on their 2015 album Shake The Breakdown
  • UK X Factor group, 4th Impact, performed the song as a mashup with Sound of the Underground during the second week of live shows.

Legacy and in the media[edit]

  • Radiohead's "Pyramid Song" quotes the line "And we all went to heaven in a little row boat".
  • Tom Waits's song "Clap Hands" from his album Rain Dogs quotes the line "they all went to heaven in a little row boat." In the version of the song on the live album Big Time, Waits prefaces "Clap Hands" with the entire first verse of "The Clapping Song".
  • Buck 65's "1957" quotes the line "we all go to Heaven in a little row boat."
  • In "Loco Mosquito" (Soldier, 1980), Iggy Pop quotes some lines from "The Clapping Song".
  • UB40's rendition of Red Red Wine includes the lines "The line broke, the monkey get choked".
  • Spank Rock's mix tape Couche-Tard samples "The Clapping Song" on track "Five".
  • Parkway Drive quotes the line "and we all go to heaven in a little row boat" in a satirical manner in their 2015 song "Writings on the Wall".
  • James May attempted to parallel park a Lamborghini Countach to the song on an episode of Top Gear
  • Manu Chao used the "My mama told me" part in the 2003 Jai Alai Katumbi Express with Fermin Muguruza on "Hamburger Fields / Hitz Egin" song. [3]
  • The song was used in an advertising campaign for Matalan in the UK.
  • The song was featured in the hip hop documentary Scratch as part of a story where DJ Jazzy Jay recalls Afrika Bambaata passing him a 45 single with a drum break he later discovered was from "The Clapping Song".
  • The song is also featured in Skins (TV series) in 2007. It was used in the bonus episode of Season 1, during the organisation of the "Secret Party".
  • The song is featured in a 2011 advertisement on YouTube for the 2012 Volkswagen Beetle.
  • The chorus of Cat Power’s 2012 song “3, 6, 9” borrows heavily from “The Clapping Song”
  • The line "3, 6, 9" is referenced in the verses to "Get Low" by Lil Jon and the East Side Boyz featuring the Ying Yang Twins.