Saturday, June 22, 2013

At the Music Hall, “I’m Henery the Eighth I am, I am,” 1910

This song is not about the corpulent monarch.
I'm Henery the Eighth, I am,
Henery the Eighth I am, I am!
I got married to the widow next door,
She'd been married seven times before.
And every one was an Henery
She wouldn't have a Willie or a Sam
I'm her eighth old man named Henery
Henery the Eighth, I am!

Long before it was recorded by Herman’s Hermits in 1965, “I’m Henery the Eighth I am,” was a beloved music hall song written by Fred Murray and R.P. Weston and popularized by Harry Champion, a music hall star of the time.

Typically sung in a Cockney accent, the song tells the tale of a man whose wife had seven previous husbands, all of whom were named “Henry.” Since the song is meant to be performed with Cockney pronunciation, the name Henry is always spelled as “Henery,” the third syllable being important to the rhythm of the tune.

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Champion would perform the refrain at rapid speed, sweating and flailing his arms wildly as he sang at breakneck speed. Other versions of the song are equally enthusiastic, but certainly not as speedy. This pub favorite has been recorded numerous times by many artists and has been referenced frequently in popular culture. In 2004, in an episode of The Simpsons entitled “Magical History Tour,” Homer plays the role of Henry VIII, and though the song has nothing to do with the monarch per se, he sings a parody of the tune with the following lyrics:

I'm Henery the Eighth, I am, 
I'm Henery the Eighth, I am, I am, 
I've been eating since six a.m. 
For dessert I'll have dinner again, 
My name's synonymous with gluttony 
I'll always eat a turkey or a ham.

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