For He's a Jolly Good Fellow

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Not to be confused with Lostprophets song "For He's a Jolly Good Felon".

"For He's a Jolly Good Fellow" is a song that is sung to congratulate a person on a significant event, such as a promotion, a birthday, a wedding (or playing a major part in a wedding), a wedding anniversary, the birth of a child, or the winning of a championship sporting event. The melody originates from the French song "Marlbrough s'en va-t-en guerre" ("Marlborough Has Left for the War"). The traditional children's song The Bear Went Over the Mountain is sung to the same tune.

According to the Guinness Book of World Records, "For He's a Jolly Good Fellow" is the second-most popular song in the English language, following "Happy Birthday to You" and followed by "Auld Lang Syne". It is frequently used instead of "Happy Birthday to You" in films and television to avoid possible copyright issues.

History[edit]

The tune is of French origin and dates at least from the 18th century.[1] Allegedly it was composed the night after the Battle of Malplaquet in 1709.[2] It became a French folk tune and was popularized by Marie Antoinette after she heard one of her maids singing it.[3] The melody became so popular in France that it was used to represent the French defeat in Beethoven's composition "Wellington's Victory" Opus 91 written in 1813.[4]

The melody also became widely popular in the United Kingdom.[5] By the mid-19th century[6] it was being sung with the words "For he's a jolly good fellow", often at all-male social gatherings.[7] By 1862, it was already familiar in America.[8] British and American versions of the lyrics differ. "And so say all of us" is typically British,[9] while "which nobody can deny" is regarded as the American version,[4] but "which nobody can deny" has been used by non-American writers, including Charles Dickens in Household Words,[10] Hugh Stowell Brown in Lectures to the Men of Liverpool[11] and James Joyce in Finnegans Wake.[12]

Lyrics[edit]

As with many songs that use gender-specific pronouns, the song can be altered to agree with the sex of the intended recipient, "he" being replaced with "she."[13] If the song is being sung to two or more people it is altered to "For They are Jolly Good Fellows."


For he's a jolly good fellow, for he's a jolly good fellow
For he's a jolly good fellow (pause), and so say all of us
And so say all of us, and so say all of us
For he's a jolly good fellow, for he's a jolly good fellow
For he's a jolly good fellow (pause), and so say all of us!

American version[edit]

For he's a jolly good fellow, for he's a jolly good fellow
For he's a jolly good fellow (pause), which nobody can deny
Which nobody can deny, which nobody can deny
For he's a jolly good fellow, for he's a jolly good fellow
For he's a jolly good fellow (pause), which nobody can deny!

Italian version[edit]

Perché è un bravo ragazzo, perché è un bravo ragazzo
perché è un bravo ragazzo (pause), nessuno lo può negar
Nessuno lo può negar, nessuno lo può negar
Perché è un bravo ragazzo, perché è un bravo ragazzo
perché è un bravo ragazzo (pause), nessuno lo può negar!

Portuguese version[edit]

Ele é um bom companheiro, ele é um bom companheiro
Ele é um bom companheiro (pause), ninguém pode negar
ninguém pode negar, ninguém pode negar
Ele é um bom companheiro, ele é um bom companheiro
Ele é um bom companheiro (pause), ninguém pode negar!

Spanish version[edit]

Es un muchacho excelente, es un muchacho excelente
Es un muchacho excelente..., y siempre lo será.
Y siempre lo será, y siempre lo será.
Es un muchacho excelente, es un muchacho excelente
Es un muchacho excelente..., y siempre lo será.
Y siempre lo será, y siempre lo será...

Spanish (Latin American) version[edit]

Porque es un buen compañero, porque es un buen compañero
Porque es un buen compañero (pausa), y nadie lo puede negar
Porque es un buen compañero, porque es un buen compañero
Porque es un buen compañero (pausa), y nadie lo puede negar!

Greek version[edit]

Είναι εύθυμος και καλός φίλος, είναι εύθυμος και καλός φίλος
Είναι εύθυμος και καλός φίλος (παύση), και είναι παντού γνωστό
και είναι παντού γνωστό, και είναι παντού γνωστό
Είναι εύθυμος και καλός φίλος, είναι εύθυμος και καλός φίλος
Είναι εύθυμος και καλός φίλος (παύση), και είναι παντού γνωστό!

Pause length[edit]

Many people find it difficult to leave the correct pause in the third iteration of "For he's a jolly good fellow".[clarification needed] This is particularly evident when several people are singing it at once, such as a crowd chant in a football stadium, or at a birthday party. When sung in 4/4 time, the correct pause between "-low" at the end of the third line and "so" near the beginning of the fourth line is four beats, making one complete verse 12 bars long.

Variations[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ The Oxford Dictionary of Music, 2nd. ed.(revised). Ed. Michael Kennedy:‘18th‐cent. Fr. nursery song. ... It is usually stated that ‘Malbrouck’ refers to the 1st Duke of Marlborough, but the name is found in medieval literature.’
  2. ^ Catalogue of rare books of and relating to music. London: Ellis. p. 32. 
  3. ^ West, Nancy Shohet (9 June 2011). "Mining nuggets of music history". Boston Globe. Retrieved 22 June 2011. 
  4. ^ a b Cryer, Max (2010). Love Me Tender: The Stories Behind the World's Favourite Songs (Large Print). Exisle Publishing. pp. 26 ff. ISBN 1-4587-7956-4. 
  5. ^ The Times (London, England), 28 March 1826, p. 2:'The Power of Music'. A visiting foreigner, trying to recall the address of his lodgings in Marlborough Street, hums the tune to a London cabman: he immediately recognises it as 'Malbrook'.
  6. ^ The song may have featured in an “extravaganza” given at the Princess theatre in London at Easter 1846, during which fairies hold a moonlight meeting: “...the meeting closes with a song of thanks to Robin Goodfellow (Miss Marshall), who had occupied the chair,...and who is assured that “he’s a jolly good fellow.” "Princess's." Times [London, England] 14 Apr. 1846: 5. The Times Digital Archive. Web. 1 Oct. 2012.
  7. ^ The Times reprinted an article from Punch describing a drunken speech given at a (fictional) public meeting. The speech ends: "Zshenl’men, here’s all your vehgood healts! I beggapard’n – here’s my honangal’n fren’s shjolly goo’ health! "For he’s a jolly good fellow, &c (Chorus by the whole of the company, amid which the right hon. orator tumbled down.)" "The After Dinner Speech At The Improvement Club." Times [London, England] 23 Mar. 1854: 10. The Times Digital Archive. Web. 1 Oct. 2012.
  8. ^ Review of a piano recital: “As a finale he performed for the first time, a burlesque on the French air, "Marlbrook," better known to the American student of harmony as "He's a jolly good fellow." “ New York Times, October 4, 1862
  9. ^ An 1859 version quoted in The Times however has some ‘red-faced’ English officers at an Indian entertainment dancing before their host: ‘...declaring that he was “a right good fellow; he’s a jolly good fellow, which nobody dare deny hip, hip, hip, hoorah!” &c.’ The Times(London, England), 24 March 1859, p. 9
  10. ^ Dickens, Charles (1857). Household Words 15. p. 142. 
  11. ^ Brown, Hugh Stowell (1860). Lectures to the Men of Liverpool. p. 73. 
  12. ^ Joyce, James. Finnegans Wake. p. 25. 
  13. ^ Originally the song was associated with after-dinner drinking by all-male groups and not used for females. In 1856 British officers in the Crimea mistakenly sang it after a toast had been made, in Russian, to the Empress of Russia:'...peals of laughter followed when they all learned the subject of the toast, which was afterwards drunk again with due honour and respect.' Blackwood's Magazine, Volume 80, October 1856

External links[edit]