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:

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.