Yankee Doodle

Written in 1755 by Dr. Richard Schuckburg

FZ album(s) in which song has appeared

Tour(s) on which song is known to have been performed (main source: FZShows, v. 7.1)


Marc De Bruyn (emdebe@village.uunet.be), September 7, 2003

"Yankee Doodle" was composed by Dr. Richard Schuckburg.

There are numerous conflicting accounts of the origin of "Yankee Doodle", due to the fact that the song has many versions ("Yankee Doodle's" catchy tune has allowed for seemingly endless adaptation and expansion—an 1887 theater piece jokingly referred to the song having 199 verses). But, this patriotic song has an uncomplimentary history.

The music and words go back to 15th century Holland, as a harvesting song that began, "Yanker dudel doodle down". In England, the tune was used for a nursery rhyme—"Lucy Locket". Later, the song poked fun of Puritan church leader Oliver Cromwell, because "Yankee" was a mispronunciation of the word "English" in the Dutch language, and "doodle" refers to a dumb person. But it was a British surgeon, Richard Schuckburgh, who wrote the words (in 1755) we know today that ridiculed the ragtag colonists fighting in the French and Indian War.

Soon after, the British troops used the song to make fun of the American colonists during the Revolutionary War. Yet it became the American colonists' rallying anthem for that war. At the time the Revolutionary War began, Americans were proud to be called yankees and "Yankee Doodle" became the colonists most stirring anthem of defiance and liberty. During Pre-Revolutionary America when the song "Yankee Doodle" first became popular, the word macaroni in the line that reads "stuck a feather in his hat and called it macaroni" didn't refer to the pasta. Instead, "Macaroni" was a fancy and overdressed ("dandy") style of Italian clothing widely imitated in England at the time. So by just sticking a feather in his cap and calling himself a "Macaroni", Yankee Doodle was proudly proclaiming himself to be a country bumpkin (an awkward and unsophisticated person), because that was how the English regarded most colonials at that time.

"Yankee Doodle went to town / A-riding on a pony / Stuck a feather in his hat / And called it macaroni. / Yankee Doodle, keep it up / Yankee Doodle dandy / Mind the music and the step / And with the girls be handy / Father and I went down to camp / Along with Captain Gooding / And there we saw the men and boys / As thick as hasty pudding / Yankee Doodle, keep it up / Yankee Doodle dandy / Mind the music and the step / And with the girls be handy / There was Captain Washington / Upon a slapping stallion / A-giving orders to his men / I guess there was a million / Yankee Doodle, keep it up / Yankee Doodle dandy / Mind the music and the step / And with the girls be handy"

The writer, producer, and composer George M. Cohan (1878-1942) adapted "Yankee Doodle" for his Broadway play "Little Johnny Jones", the story of an American jockey who goes to England to win a derby. A portion of Cohan's 1904 play was incorporated into the biographical 1942 film "Yankee Doodle Dandy" staring James Cagney as Cohan, and again into the 1955 movie "The Seven Little Foys" starring Bob Hope and Cagney (Eddie Foy, 1854-1928, was a vaudevillian who performed with his seven children).

Conceptual Continuity

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