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"Always Look on the Bright Side of Life" a Hit at Funerals
Go As You Please
The most requested song at U.K. funerals in 2014 was Monty Python's Always Look on the Bright Side of Life, beating out the likes of The Lord is My Shepherd, My Way, You'll Never Walk Alone and all the rest.
The irreverent tune is the closing song sung in 1979's comedy Monty Python's Life of Brian, about a man, Brain Cohen (played by Graham Chapman) who had the misfortune to be born on the same day as Jesus of Nazerath, a next door neighbor, and subsequently mistaken for the Messiah. While Brian is hanging from the cross, fellow crucifixion victim Eric Idle (who actually wrote the song) attempts to cheer him up by saying:
Some things in life are bad,
They can really make you mad.
Other things just make you swear and curse.
When you're chewing on life's gristle,
Don't grumble, give a whistle,
And this'll help things turn out for the best, and...
At this point Eric breaks out into full song. Within a few verses all the others being crucified join in, singing, whistling and rhythmically shifting their heads side to side as best they can under the circumstances.
Monty Python Members
Irreverent, Blasphemous, Hilarious, Infectious and Uplifting
Did I say irreverent? Indeed, even blasphemous to some. And hilarious-- at least to those not mortally offended by religious parodies (though behind closed doors some might loose a guilty chuckle). And somewhat infectious, at least akin to an earwig boring into your brain. It's just so catchy.
According to a study by The Co-operative Funeralcare, the United Kingdom's largest funeral director with more than 900 funeral homes, requests for Always Look on the Bright Side of Life at funerals has risen from 13th place in 2011 to the most popular funeral song of 2014. Hymns and classics are declining, now claiming only 9 of the top 20 choices. One spokesman said "The variety of songs played at funerals today illustrates how more and more people are choosing to personalise funerals, and celebrate their loved one's life with a fitting farewell." Ah, those crazy Brits. If you really think about it though, it really is uplifting-- a kind of “up yours” in the face of the grim reaper.
Top 10 at UK Funerals
Here are the top 10 songs played at UK funerals:
- Always Look on the Bright Side of Life - Eric Idle
- The Lord is My Shepherd - Traditional
- Abide with Me - Traditional
- Match of the Day theme
- My Way - Frank Sinatra
- All Things Bright and Beautiful - Traditional
- Angels - Robbie Williams
- Enigma Variations - Elgar
- You'll Never Walk Alone - Gerry and the Pacemakers
- Cricket Theme/Soul Limbo - Booker T & the MG's
Lest you think the Brits have completely lost their sense of decorum, some songs, like Relax by Frankie Goes to Hollywood and God Save the Queen by the Sex Pistols have been refused based on “taste” and “inappropriate language”, though I doubt the folks at Downton Abbey would agree the banned list goes quite far enough. Also on the list of refused songs: Imagine by John Lennon. Say what???
World Record Coconut Orchestra
On April 23, 2007, 5,567 people clip-clopped their way into the Guinness World Records as the world's largest Coconut Orchestra by playing Always Look on the Bright Side of Life. Led by Monty Python members Terry Jones and Terry Gilliam, the “orchestra” performed in London's Trafalgar Square. The idea for coconut orchestras was born when the budget for 1975's Monty Python and the Holy Grail precluded horses. To “solve” the problem, the comedy troupe had actors clop coconuts together simulating hoofbeats. The previous record for a Coconut Orchestra was 1,789 in New York City.
The British Stiff Upper Lip
Perhaps part of the appeal of Always Look on the Bright Side of Life is that it has that sort of “stiff upper lip” British stoicism about it. When Monty Python's Graham Chapman died of cancer in 1989 at age 48, Eric Idle led the other Pythons and Graham's family and friends in a rendition of Always Look on the Bright Side of Life at a private memorial.
During the Falklands War in 1982, the destroyer HMS Sheffield was struck by an Exocet missile on May 4 and her sister ship HMS Coventry was hit by several bombs on May 25. A total of 40 sailors were killed. In both situations, while the remaining crew members awaited rescue before their ships sank, they sang Always Look on the Bright Side of Life.
Always Look on the Bright of Life
And Now For Something Completely Different: Russian Soldiers March to SpongeBob SquarePants
Different, but in a similar same vein... the SpongeBob SquarePants theme song has hit a nerve with Russian soldiers and sailors who have adopted it to keep cadence while marching, starting with SpongeBob's captain saying: Are you ready children? One commenter said that the Russian language can make anything sound terrifying. At this time the following YouTube video showing Russians marching has over 700,000 hits.
Are You Ready Children?
© 2015 David Hunt