'The Hokey Pokey' Songwriter Dies

Filed under: In The News

Robert Degen, who might have written the classic children's song, "The Hokey Pokey," died on Nov. 23 -- his 104th birthday.

While we're impressed by anyone who breaks the century mark, it's Degen's possible contribution to history that has us interested.

You probably never gave much thought to the origins of the "The Hokey Pokey." But there has been a lot of debate over just who first created the tune . (The children's song teaches kids right from left, which is a small price to pay for having it stuck in your head for days).

According to Degen's obituary in The New York Times, Larry LaPrise and his group the Ram Trio first recorded a song called "The Hokey Pokey" in the late 1940s. But Degen claimed that he had written a song called "The Hokey Pokey Dance" before that, and LaPrise had stolen it from him.

Degen sued LaPrise and the case was settled out of court. Degen's son, William, told the Times' Bruce Weber that "his father received regular royalty payments from Sony/ATV through his lawyer, Donald Lowry, and supplied a copy of a Sony/ATV check for $47,199.25 written to Mr. Lowry in March 2005." (Emphasis added.) Nice work -- if you can get it.

The Times obit notes that the song may have first appeared in the 18th century, "written by Puritans to mock the language of the Latin Mass." And you thought it was just something you heard at birthday parties.

When LaPrise died in April of 1996, there were a number of jokes that made the rounds via e-mail. They are so bad that we can't help repeating just one.

"The most traumatic part for his family was getting him into the coffin. They put his left leg in. And then the trouble started."

And now, in honor of Degan, here is five-year-old guitar player Wesley doing his rendition of "The Hokey Pokey."

Related: Hot Viral Video: Taylor Swift, Another Stolen Moment, Hokey Pokey Products

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AdviceMama Says:
Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.