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Shoo Fly Don't Bother Me - history, how to play and more!

Start shooing some flies today!
Start shooing some flies today!

Jeffrey Friedberg MA, MT-BC is a certified music therapist, an award-winning children’s musician with The Bossy Frog Band and a father of 2 wonderful children.  For more healthy children's music go to www.Bossyfrog.

EXPLANATION: It’s amazing how some music can stand the test of time.  Especially with children’s music, there are certain melodies and lyrics that continue to be passed down from generation to generation.  One of my favorites is “Shoo Fly Don’t Bother Me.”  Here are some musings on its history, activity suggestions and a guitar lesson for how to play it!

HISTORY: “Shoo Fly Don't Bother Me” was first published in 1869. All indications are that the song was written by T. Brigham Bishop. He also claims to have penned John Brown's Body and When Johnny Come Marching Home but there is some controversy about that as well.  Shoo Fly has remained popular ever since.  Its original lyrics were changed over the years as they contained offensive racist language.

ACTIVITY SUGGESTIONS: In it's current version, Shoo Fly is a great song to motivate children to expand their expressive and motoric range by waving a tambourine (or their hand) from side to side in a "fly shooing" motion.  I like to encourage children to go side to side with the beat of the song.  For the second section, the "I feel, I feel, I feel like a morning star" section, children can hold their tambourines (or hands cupped in a circle) over their heads - as high as they can - to represent the morning star.

“Shoo Fly Don’t Bother Me” is a great warmup song to get everyone stretching and moving.  Children love to be dramatic by pretending to shoo away the imaginary flies and then to be holding up an imaginary sun.

SING ALONG/LYRICS: And it's also fun to sing along.  The repetitive structure makes for easy memorization.  If a child doesn't remember the first line, by the 2nd repeat, they'll be ready to jump in and sing.

In the first verse, the first three lines repeat”Shoo fly, don't bother me” and then add a closing statement:

Shoo fly, don't bother me

Shoo fly, don't bother me

Shoo fly, don't bother me

'Cause I belong to somebody

In the second section, the first 2 words repeat two times before completing the phrase - and then repeats this pattern 3 more times:

I feel, I feel

I feel like a morning star

I feel, I feel

I feel like a morning star

I feel, I feel

I feel like a morning star

I feel, I feel

I feel like a morning star

HOW TO PLAY: The song uses only 2 chords and is a lot of fun to sing and play.  I like to play it in the key of "G" but you can use the key of your choosing!

Here's a video guitar lesson for "Shoo Fly"

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f_YpOa5GSxk

And here's an amazing Cajun influenced version by The Upsouth Twisters from "15 Songs Every Kid Should Know (and will Love!)."  Instruments that children will hear in this song include accordion, harmonica, electric guitar, acoustic bass, timabales, washboard, and drum set.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a12mPYz15JE

Enjoy some shoo flying and sing, dance and make music with your kids!

Thanks

Jeffrey

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