Thursday, October 18, 2012

Allan Sherman Lost Lyrics Friday -- A Song about Trotsky

It's been a big week for Allan Sherman's lost lyrics.

There are two song lyrics here, one here, and a really good one here.

But it is hard to top "The Night That Leon Trotsky Died," Sherman's parody of the Irish drinking song, "The Night That Paddy Murphy Died." On the off-chance you don't know the tune, here it is.

Without checking around, I feel it is safe to say there isn't much comedy about the Russian-Jewish revolutionary Leon Trotsky, never mind his assassination in 1940. Sherman's parody defies classification, except that it clarifies his delight in absurdity. Sherman loved wonderful silliness.

He wrote the parody at the University of Illinois, probably during the 1944-45 academic year. It was never written down anywhere, and I was very lucky to learn of it from comic actor Arte Johnson, most famous for his role on the television show Laugh-In. Johnson knew Sherman at Illinois. 

"We all dressed up as Russians and came up through the audience" at a fraternity stunt show, said Johnson. "People screamed because we were so wacky." Johnson sang this to me. Thank you, Arte Johnson.

Olga, Olga, on the Volga
Striptease for the czar
Olga, Olga from the Volga
I wonder where you are
On the night that Leon Trotsky died
I never shall forget
The Russians got so stinking drunk
That some aren’t sober yet
There are some things they did that night
That gave me quite a jar
They took the buckshot from the corpse
And called it caviar.
That’s how they showed their respect for Leon Trotsty
That’s how they showed their honor and their pride
That’s how they showed their respect for Leon Trotsty
On the night that Leon Trotsky died.

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