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Getting Rid of The Chicken Fat: The Revival of the 1960s Fitness Program

Updated on June 16, 2014
The Fitness Song from President Kennedy's Administration.
The Fitness Song from President Kennedy's Administration. | Source

What do the Apple Company, President John F. Kennedy, Robert Preston, and chicken fat all have in common?

Read on to find out.

Apple's campaign advertising their fitness app on their phone is accompanied by a catchy jingle that may sound unfamiliar to those born in the seventies or later but it is all too familiar to those of the baby boomer generation.

The song, "Chicken Fat" written by Meredith Wilson and performed by Robert Preston was actually written to be inspiring to the baby boomer youth---similar to the "Let's Move" campaign of First Lady Michelle Obama.

The fitness program, created by President Kennedy's administration was sent to schools around the country.

The song was revived in Summer 2014 to help launch the new Apple ios and brag about its fitness capabilities.

Here is the original, shortened version of the song along with some of the fitness campaign materials.

What Inspired the Original Fitness Program?

President John F. Kennedy campaigned on the idea of fitness. He and his wife were both beautiful and active and Kennedy felt that America's youth also needed to get fit.

After he was elected he founded the Council on Youth Fitness to help combat the problem of inactive, less healthy youth in our country.

JFK was partially responsible for the "chicken fat" song.
JFK was partially responsible for the "chicken fat" song. | Source

Although the idea originated under Eisenhower, Kennedy helped to make youth physical fitness popular and appealing.

So the administration commissioned Wilson to write a song for the new initiative.

According to the Detroit Kids Show, 3 million copies of the song were given to schools to play around the country.

Most found the song charming. However, one Detroit school principal thought that the song was ridiculous and offensive and refused to play it for her kids.

Who Are Robert Preston and Meredith Wilson?

Robert Preston was a broadway actor who had success both on stage and on screen.

His breakthrough role as an actor came when he played Professor Harold Hill, the sweet talking scam artist who convinces the people of River City that they need a boy's band (that he can lead) even though he knows nothing about music or being a bandleader.

He employs the "think system" where he tells the boys that they must think the song in order to learn it and not to worry about practicing their instruments.

Hilarity, of course, ensues and they all learn some valuable lessons along the way--including the con man.

Robert Preston was so amazing in his role as The Music Man that he brought it to the big screen where it was an instant, smash success.

Robert Preston As Professor Harold Hill--Stirring Up The Town

Meredith Wilson is a composer of some note. While he wrote the "Chicken Fat" song, he was most known for writing The Music Man. He also composed the music for such classics as Charlie Chaplin's The Great Dictator and The Little Foxes as well as countless other well-known songs.

Part of Wilson's inspiration was participating in John Phillip Sousa's band from 1921-1923.

Wilson's collections of songs were performed by well-known artists such as Bing Crosby and Frank Sinatra.

He was given a Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1987 (posthumously).

A 1937 advertisement photo featuring Meredith Wilson.
A 1937 advertisement photo featuring Meredith Wilson. | Source

Chicken Fat Song by Meredith Wilson (Lyrics)

The chicken fat song was almost seven minutes long and was meant as an instructive exercise routine in the schools. Here are some of the lyrics (the shorter, radio friendly version).

(Seven!) Don't be (up) chicken (Eight!) again

(up) No, (Nine!) don't be (up) chicken again. (Ten...halt!)

Hit the dirt! Hit!

Push ups next,

Nice and steady.

Not too fast.

Ready!

Push up (down)

Every morning (up)

Ten times!

Push up,

Starting low.

(Down! That's five.) Once more (down) on the rise

(Six!) Nuts to the (down) flabby guys.

(Seven!) Go, you (down) chicken fat, (Everybody sing!) go away.

Go, you chicken fat, go!

Go, you chicken fat, go away!

Go, you chicken fat, go!

Left! Left! Left! Left!

Left a good pound and a quarter.

Was it right, right that it should be left?

Yes, I left! Left! Left! Left!

Left a good pound and a quarter.

It was right (left), right (left) that it should be left!

Now, touch your toes with me. Ready!

Touch down (up)

Every morning (down)

Ten times!

(Three!) Not just (up)

(Four!) Now and then (up)

(Five!) Give that (up) chicken fat

(Six!) Back to the (up) chicken and

Chicken fat is for chickens.
Chicken fat is for chickens. | Source

Song Publishing Information

CHICKEN FAT YOUTH FITNESS

Writer: Meredith Willson

Publisher: Frank Music Corp./Meredith Willson Music

Written in 1962

Apple Fitness Campaign

In Apple's new campaign for its fitness apps, the chicken fat song lends a retro feel to a very modern convenience and device.

The song instantly makes you smile and pay attention, two great things for an ad campaign.

Just like Apple's earlier commercial for the new IPAD using a famous speech from the hit movie Dead Poet's Society, Apple seems to be reaching for the new generation while remembering to appeal to baby boomers and Generation X as well.

By combining Robert Preston's timeless voice and Wilson's silly song, the commercial is sure to long be remembered.

Sources

  • Biography.com. "Robert Preston." Accessed: 6/11/2014
  • Luckerson, Victor. "Apple Dares You To Burn The Chicken Fat in the Latest Ad." June 6, 2014. Time.com.
  • ROMERO, M. (2013). BADGE OF HONOR. Washingtonian Magazine, 49(2), 127-129.
  • http://detroitkidshow.com/chicken_fat.htm. Accessed: 6/11/2014

Do you remember the chicken fat song?

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    • Ann1Az2 profile image

      Ann1Az2 2 years ago from Orange, Texas

      I don't remember the song, but I remember Kennedy's fitness program. To be in the President's group, you had to do a lot of pushups and situps - I remember that! It's a brilliant ad campaign on Apple's part. It should get everyone interested, like you said.

      Well done and voted up.

    • LCDWriter profile image
      Author

      L C David 2 years ago from Florida

      I asked my mother about this and she also remembers the program but is not sure about the song. I'm a fan of The Music Man and when I was watching TV I saw the Apple commercial and thought "Wow that sounds just like Robert Preston." So I started researching and found out all about this. I thought it was fun and interesting. Thanks for stopping by!

    • bravewarrior profile image

      Shauna L Bowling 2 years ago from Central Florida

      I've never heard the chicken fat song until now and I was born in 1957. Anyway, that exercise app looks pretty cool. Shoot, is there anything phones can't do?

    • Ann1Az2 profile image

      Ann1Az2 2 years ago from Orange, Texas

      Yes, I've always loved Music Man, too and Robert Preston's song that you have in the video. In fact, the other day, I was saying to my husband something about we had trouble and that starts with t and that rhymes with p and that stands for pool! lol Can't remember now what we were talking about but it went over his head anyway - he hates musicals! lol

    • LCDWriter profile image
      Author

      L C David 2 years ago from Florida

      I keep finding myself humming the song, bravewarrior. Makes me want to get rid of my own "chicken fat."

      Ann1Az2. When I met my now husband part of what we bonded over was a love of The Music Man. Someone said a quote from it and the other finished it. It was one of those moments!

      I love musicals but they are kind of corny so I get why some people don't like them.

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