January 21, 2009

Controversy Surrounds "The Hokey Pokey"

Now here is a story that you might find to be surprising. Who knew.

"It's a musical staple of nursery schools and seniors' fitness classes throughout
the English-speaking world.

But The Hokey Pokey - the right-hand-in, right-hand-out ditty that sparked a 1950s dance craze - has become the focus of a bizarre controversy in Britain that has drawn in politicians, the Catholic Church in Scotland and soccer fans accused of exploiting the song's alleged anti-Catholic roots to taunt opposing teams.

Now, the son of the famed Irish songwriter Jimmy Kennedy - the man credited with penning the lyrics to one of the world's most familiar melodies - has weighed in to the furor by revealing what he calls the true inspiration for his father's hit: a traditional Canadian folk tune sung by miners in the early 20th century as a drug anthem celebrating the therapeutic powers of cocaine.The song is known in Britain as The Hokey Cokey, and was originally published by Kennedy during the Second World War as The Cokey Cokey before various U.S. recordings of The Hokey Pokey gave the song and its accompanying movements global popularity.

In December, the song sparked an uproar in Scotland when fans of the Glasgow Rangers soccer team were accused of planning to sing it to insult rival Glasgow Celtic, a club with Catholic roots. A Catholic Church spokesman warned that The Hokey Cokey had centuries-old origins as a Protestant song meant to mock the words and actions of Catholic clergy presiding over the Latin mass.

"This song does have quite disturbing origins. Although apparently innocuous, it was devised as an attack on and a parody of the Catholic mass," Peter Kearney, a spokesman for Scottish Catholic Cardinal Keith O'Brien, said at the time.
He added that soccer authorities should monitor the situation to assess "if there are moves to restore its more malevolent meaning."

Michael Matheson, a Nationalist member of the Scottish Parliament, also issued a warning about The Hokey Cokey in December: "It is important that the police and football clubs are aware of the sinister background to this song, and take the appropriate action against individuals and groups who use it at matches or in other situations to taunt Catholics."

But that suggestion was quickly panned by Murdo Fraser, deputy
leader of the Scottish Tories: "I can't believe Scottish children performing the
Hokey Cokey are doing so in pursuit of any sort of anti-Catholic agenda," he
told reporters.

For weeks, allegations of historical bigotry behind The Hokey Pokey have been the focus of a lively debate in the letters pages and websites of British newspapers."

Read the whole story here.


Miriam L said...

Well, I had no idea. But I always did think the Hokey Pokey was, you know, "what it's all about."

Jack said...