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Sunday, December 18, 2016

I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas

Two weeks ago in the POP CULTURE ADDICT'S ADVENT CALENDAR, I chose a song that was contemporary and modern.  Last Sunday, I chose a song that was more classic and traditional.

This time around, on Day #18, I'm totally going novelty.

Why you ask?  Well, some of the greatest Christmas songs that have ever been recorded have been silly, goofy, and just plain weird.  I mean, let's see what ones I can come up with on the spur of the moment.

Well, there's Dominick the Donkey, the song that essentially begins with the hee-hawing of a donkey in heat...or at least that's what I had always thought.  Very annoying, but somehow it fits.

And who could forget the Chipmunks singing about how they want Santa to hurry fast so that Alvin can get his hula hoop!

There's also Bob and Doug McKenzie and their twelve days of Christmas...which to me is a celebration of all things Canada.  And getting drunk.  But that's beside the point.

Anyway, there's a lot of silly songs that one can sing during the holiday season.  But there's one song that I have deemed the silliest of them all.

Part of the reason why the song is so silly is because of the fact that it was sung by a ten-year-old girl.  You might think that might be too young for somebody to have a holiday favourite, but keep in mind that the same year this song came out, a 6-year-old named Barry Gordon recorded the song "Nuttin' for Christmas".  And, well...he grew up to be Donatello in the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cartoon!

In the case of this song, our singer DID want something for Christmas.  One might call it a rather unusual gift.  She didn't want a crocodile, or a rhinoceros.

Only a hippopotamus'll do!

Yes, today we're going to listen to the song "I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas" sung by Oklahoma-born child star Gayla Peevey for the Christmas season of 1953!  It seems hard to believe that song is over 60 years old now.  It was one that played on our local AM radio station for years, and it's a song that has been covered by a lot of different artists.

And it's also a song that has an urban legend attached to it. 

The legend states that the song was originally recorded as a bit of a fundraiser for the local zoo in the town where Gayla lived.  And, how when Gayla was singing about wanting a hippopotamus for Christmas, she was really referring to wanting one for the zoo. 

It's a nice story, but one that Gayla herself proved to be not exactly true.  What really happened was that a local promoter in the area heard the song, liked it enough to play it on the radio, and it soon became one of the biggest holiday hits of the year.  And while the song was played, he launched a campaign to actually raise money to buy the little girl a hippopotamus for Christmas - which she ended up receiving as a gift that Christmas!

Of course, it would be extremely difficult to housetrain a hippopotamus (not that I've actually ever tried, mind you, but I doubt my neighbours would appreciate it), so Gayla donated it to the zoo.  And that hippo reportedly spent the rest of her life at that zoo - a whopping 50 years!

And in case you were wondering, the hippo was named Matilda.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for the lesson, Matt! Always wondered about the origin of that song!