13 April 2013

Really Most Sincerely

The biggest Oz news of the weekend is a collision of politics, historical accuracy, and poor taste that arose in the UK in the wake of Margaret Thatcher’s death.

Opponents of Thatcher’s policies made a concerted effort to drive up sales of a 51-second version of “Ding, Dong, the Witch is Dead,” written by E. Y. Harburg and Harold Arlen for the 1939 Wizard of Oz movie. As with the nation’s annual competition to put particular songs on the top of the British charts at Christmas, this wasn’t so much a matter of what music people actually want to hear as what statement they want to make charts make.

The campaign got the song to #3, which normally would mean that BBC Radio 1’s “Official Chart Show” would play it as part of a Top Ten list. But the controller of that station decided that the show would instead report on the song’s placement in its newscast and play a short clip. The whole song won’t appear in the countdown. At least not this week.

As a Facebook commenter noted, Harburg would be pleased—not because of a fresh batch of royalties accruing to his estate but because he was committed to the political left. Harriet Hyman Alonso’s biography Yip Harburg: Legendary Lyricist and Human Rights Activist, published last year, goes into great detail about his political activity as well as his songwriting.

Thatcher might have the last word, though. Thousands of her opponents probably now have that song stuck in their heads. And so, probably, do you.

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