Sunday, May 25, 2014

At the Music Hall: A Tisket A Tasket, 1938

“A Tisket A Tasket” originated as a nursery rhyme, first recorded in the U.S. in 1879. The popular poem was translated to song in 1938, debuting in a celebrated recording by Ella Fitzgerald.

The Nineteenth Century verse was sung as a chant or a rhyming game during which children would form a circle and dance about. One child would run around the outside of the circle and drop a handkerchief. The child closest to the dropped linen would pick it up and chase the dropper who, when caught, was punished in a variety of ways including, but not limited to, being kissed, or revealing the name of their love. The version of the rhyme used at the time went thusly:

A-tisket a-tasket
A green and yellow basket
I wrote a letter to my love
And on the way I dropped it,
I dropped it,
I dropped it,
And on the way I dropped it.
A little boy he picked it up and put it in his pocket

The 1938 version performed by Ella Fitzgerald was arranged by Al Feldman with jazz instrumentals by the Chick Webb Orchestra. Fitzgerald’s version, with the lyrics altered fom the original to be jazzier, was a instant hit. She performed the song in the Abbott and Costello film, “Ride ‘Em Cowboy.” 

In fact, here it is.

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