The Snake (song)

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"The Snake"
Al Wilson The Snake.JPG
Single by Al Wilson
B-side"Willoughby Brook"
ReleasedAugust 1968
GenreSoul, Northern Soul
LabelSoul City Records
Songwriter(s)Oscar Brown
Producer(s)Johnny Rivers, Marc Gordon
Al Wilson singles chronology
"Medley: I Won't Last a Day Without You/Let Me Be the One"
"The Snake"
"La La Peace Song"

"The Snake" is a song and single released by American singer Al Wilson in 1968, and written by civil-rights activist Oscar Brown in 1963.[1][2] The lyrics tell a story inspired by Aesop's fable of The Farmer and the Viper. Released in 1968 in the United States on Johnny Rivers' Soul City Records it made the Top 30 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1968, and due to exposure on the UK Northern Soul scene made the UK Singles Chart in August 1975 when reissued, reaching number 41 in September.[3] The success of "The Snake" on the northern soul nightclub circuit has led to it being ranked 4 of 500 top northern soul singles and for it to appear on over 30 pop and northern soul compilation albums.[4][5][6] The song was re-released in 1989 as a B-side to a re-release of "Just Don't Want to Be Lonely" by The Main Ingredient.[1] Wilson's recording of "The Snake" was also featured in a Lambrini television advertisement in the UK.[7]

The song tells the story of a kind and tender woman who finds a frozen snake on the ground on her way to work one morning. The snake begs the woman to take it home and take care of it. She obliges and takes the snake to her home and puts it by the fireplace with a silk blanket, some honey, and some milk. When she gets home from work later that evening, she finds that the snake is now warm and revived. Feeling happy for the snake's recovery, she picks it up and gives it a tight hug and kisses it on the head. However, the snake is actually vicious and gives the woman a bite, fatally poisoning her. She asks the snake why it bit her even though she took it in and cared for it, to which it responds: "Shut up silly woman! You knew damn well I was a snake before you took me in!"

Chart history[edit]

Chart (1968) Peak
Canada RPM Top Singles[8] 38
U.S. Billboard Hot 100[9] 27
U.S. Billboard R&B 32
U.S. Cash Box Top 100[10] 32
Chart (1975) Peak
UK [3] 41


Use by Donald Trump[edit]

The song gained renewed attention during the campaign for the 2016 United States Presidential election. Republican candidate Donald Trump read its lyrics at several campaign rallies to illustrate his position on illegal immigration, claiming that the decision to allow people claiming refugee status to enter the United States would "come back to bite us", as happened to the woman who took in the snake in the song.[11] Songwriter Oscar Brown had seven children. His work has been characterized as "a celebration of black culture and a repudiation of racism", and suggestions have been made that the snake in the song refers to a white person. [12] Two of his seven children asked Trump to stop using their late father's song, telling the media: "He’s perversely using 'The Snake' to demonize immigrants" and that Brown "never had anything against immigrants."[13] Despite a cease and desist letter, President Trump has continued reciting the lyrics at rallies as recently as February 2020.[14]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "The Snake". Retrieved October 5, 2012.
  2. ^ "Al Wilson: Expressive singer of 'The Snake'". April 24, 2008. Retrieved October 5, 2012.
  3. ^ a b "The Snake". Retrieved October 5, 2012.
  4. ^ Roberts, Kev (2007). The Northern Soul Top 500. Goldsoul Entertainment Limited. ISBN 9780955751905.
  5. ^ "Northern Soul Top 500". Retrieved October 5, 2012.
  6. ^ "The Snake - Al Wilson". Retrieved October 5, 2012.
  7. ^ "Lambrini – Just Wanna Dance". Retrieved January 28, 2014.
  8. ^ "Item Display - RPM - Library and Archives Canada". 1968-09-30. Retrieved 2019-10-23.
  9. ^ Joel Whitburn's Top Pop Singles 1955–1990 - ISBN 0-89820-089-X
  10. ^ Cash Box Top 100 Singles, October 19, 1968
  11. ^ "Donald Trump Reads Lyrics From Al Wilson's "The Snake" About Syrian Refugees". ABC News. January 13, 2016. Retrieved January 14, 2016.
  12. ^ Rosenberg, Eli, "‘The Snake’: How Trump Appropriated a Radical Black Singer’s Lyrics for Immigration Fearmongering", The Washington Post, February 24, 2018.
  13. ^ Caleb Ecarma (February 25, 2018). "Daughters of 'The Snake' Author Slam Trump For 'Perversely Using' Poem 'to Demonize Immigrants'". Mediaite. Retrieved February 26, 2018.
  14. ^ "Oscar Brown Jr's daughter wants Trump to stop reading her dad's 'Snake' lyrics at rallies". CBC/Radio-Canada. 2016-09-20. Retrieved 2018-08-06.

External links[edit]