Ernie Harburg says in a statement: 'Laughing and joy are required at the funeral of a tyrant'
Ernie Harburg, the son of ‘Ding Dong! The Witch Is Dead’ songwriter Yip Harburg, has said that his father would be amused at the song being used to celebrate the death of Margaret Thatcher.
Judy Garland’s 51-second version of the song soared up the charts following the news of the former British Prime Minister’s death on April 8 and charted at Number Two in the Official Singles Chart following a Facebook campaign to get the song to Number One. Ernie Harburg’s statement was given to Ian Baldry, the creator of the Facebook campaign and states that “humour is an act of courage” and that as a sworn challenger of tyranny his father would have approved of the celebrations soundtracked by the song.
“Yip Harburg, lyricist of The Wizard Of Oz film, would have been amused that ‘Ding Dong! The Witch Is Dead’ rose to the top of the charts when Margaret Thatcher died,” begins the statement. “WS Gilbert and George Bernard Shaw taught Yip Harburg, democratic socialist, sworn challenger of all tyranny against the people, that ‘humour is an act of courage’ and dissent. Those who sang the song ‘Ding Dong! The Witch Is Dead’ in the film The Wizard Of Oz celebrated the end of tyranny at the hands of the Wicked Witch of the East. That celebration was not in L Frank Baum’s book. Yip’s artistic leadership put it into the film. (Yip also brought the rainbow, also not in the book, into the film.)”
Harburg continues: “Yip said, ‘humour is the antidote to tyranny’ and ‘show me a place without humour and I’ll show you a disaster area’. Yip believed tyranny is caused by the policies of austerity, imperialism, theocracy, and class supremacy, which deny most people human rights and economic freedom from poverty and want. A song – music and lyrics – allows singers and audiences to feel the thought of the lyric. ‘Ding Dong! The Witch Is Dead’ is a universal cry against the cruelty of tyrants and a protest against the ban on laughter at that cruelty. For the 99 per cent, laughing and joy are required at the funeral of a tyrant. According to Yip, humour gives us hope in hard times.”
Margaret Thatcher’s funeral is taking place in London today (April 17).