The Name Game
|"The Name Game"|
|Single by Shirley Ellis|
|from the album The Name Game|
|B-side||"Whisper To Me Wind"|
|Single by Laura Branigan|
|from the album Touch|
|Genre||Synth Pop, Pop Rock|
|Songwriter(s)||Shirley Elliston, Lincoln Chase|
|Laura Branigan singles chronology|
It was written by American singer Shirley Ellis and Lincoln Chase, and Ellis's recording, produced by Charles Calello, was released during late 1964 as "The Name Game". The record scored number 3 on the Billboard Hot 100, and number 4 on the magazine's R&B charts during 1965. The record was re-released in 1966 and again in 1973. A Rhythm & Blues singer for 10 years before that success, Ellis was also successful with "The Clapping Song (Clap Pat Clap Slap)" (#8 pop and #16 R&B), and "The Nitty Gritty" (#8 on the Hot 100 and #4 on the Cash Box R&B chart). Ellis performed "The Name Game" on major television programs of the day, including Hullabaloo, American Bandstand and The Merv Griffin Show. The song later became a popular children's singalong.
"The Name Game" has been recorded by dozens of recording artists in the years since, notably Laura Branigan, whose version produced by Jeff Lorber was included on her 1987 album Touch, released as the fifth single. It features a classroom of third-grade schoolchildren singing along to the game. Judy Moody, Hannah Banana, and many other phrases have been referenced from this song. Often sung by relative unknowns for collections of songs for children, other cover versions have been recorded by artists as diverse as Dean Ford and the Gaylords (1965), Divine (1980), and Soupy Sales (1965). The Brazilian singer Xuxa recorded a song using the same play and the same sample in the song "Jogo da Rima". In 1965, singer Olivia Molina recorded a Spanish version, "Juego De Palabras". In 1975, Anne Renée recorded "Un jeu d'fou" in French. Joanie Bartels covered the song with different names, releasing it as a single from the 1980 album, Sillytime Magic and the 1994 video The Extra-Special Substitute Teacher. In 1982, Stacy Lattisaw's "rap" recording "Attack of the Name Game" scored #70 on the Hot 100. In 1990, Cree Summer Francks (as Elmyra) performed a cover version of the song for an episode of Tiny Toon Adventures using the Tiny Toons' names (except Plucky Duck's, as mentioned by that episode's end credits). In 1993, this song was used in television commercials for Little Caesars Pizza's kids meals with a free toy, performed by The Little Caesars, sequeling the "Wooly Bully" commercials from 1992. Stacy's version was sampled by Mariah Carey on her 1999 single "Heartbreaker", from her album Rainbow. Character Sister Jude (Jessica Lange) sang her version of the song in season 2 episode 10 "The Name Game" of American Horror Story. Sheldon Cooper in Season 9 Episode 21 briefly sings "The Name Game" in The Big Bang Theory. In 1997, Linda Tillery and the Cultural Heritage Choir covered the song with alternate names from the album Shakin' a Tailfeather.
Ellis told Melody Maker magazine that the song was based on a game she played as a child. On May 3, 2017, Howard Stern stated that he sings this song to young children, and calls it "his secret weapon" saying "it not only comforts them, it also distracts them from [his] unsightly features".
Using the name Katie as an example, the song follows this pattern:
- Katie, Katie, bo-batie,
- Bonana-fanna fo-fatie
- Fee fi mo-matie
A verse can be created for any name with stress on the first syllable, with X as the name and Y as the name without the first consonant sound (if it begins with a consonant), as follows:
- (X), (X), bo-b (Y)
- Bonana-fanna fo-f (Y)
- Fee fi mo-m (Y)
If the name starts with a b, f, or m, that sound simply is not repeated. For example: Billy becomes "Billy Billy bo-illy"; Fred becomes "bonana fanna fo-red"; Marsha becomes "fee fi mo-arsha"
The song as originally performed gives no indication of what to do with names where the stress falls on a syllable after the first, like Anita or Antoinette, however, the cover version on the workout video Sweatin' to the Oldies 3 (vocals by Donna Miller) suggests that the first syllable should be dropped after the name is first said; the name Madonna is sung as "Madonna-donna-bo-bonna," etc.
- "The Name Game". Billboard.
- The Shirley Ellis Name Game Page
- "'The Name Game' Is Howard's Secret Weapon With Children". Howard Stern. Retrieved 2017-05-07.