Sing-ah Sang-ah Song-ah

When I was about 5 years old (maybe even younger), my dad introduced me to Rudy Valle’s elegant 1931 classic, “When Yuba Plays the Rumba on the Tuba.” At first, he just sang me a line about “a booba down in Cuba.” That was a deeply formative moment. I instantly learned two things (albeit not in these words), namely: 1) I was not alone, there were people in the world who spoke my language; and 2) adults were custodians over a trove of dangerous, forbidden treasures, standing sentinel lest they fall into the wrong hands, ears, or whatever. The realm of silliness, nonsense, irreverence — randomness, not chaos — was meaningful to me. It still is.

So, in order to give back, and to honor my dad’s passing as Father’s Day is on the near horizon, I started with the word “Havana” and just let it take me where it would; in that sense, I suppose that there’s also a hint of “The Name Game” by Ellis and Chase (1964).

The lyrics can be hard to understand due to the fast tempo and deliberate unconventionality of the words, but I don’t want to create a lyricized video because I don’t want to have to deal with the relatively freeform refrain, so I am just going to put the lyrics right here so that you can sing along-ah:

Hey kids, what time is it?

(Prime rhyme time!)

Yeah, it’s prime rhyme time, so...

Let’s sing a song!


Rhyme away, you singety-song!

Rhyme a flypaper rhyme.

Hey - is a pian-ah cabana in-ah Montana?

Fo shizz-ah - it izz-ah

So - what next?

Can we fling a flong - flayfully, izzat wrong? (Nope.)

Wait - I got it! (What?)

Let’s king a Kong!


Climb all day, you ape-etty-ape!

Climb a skyscraper climb.

Hey - can a banana pan Anna in-ah Havana?

Yo Nana - it can-ah

So - what now?

Can we ding a dong - playfully, twang its thong? (Yikes!)

No - I got it! (Tell us!)

Let’s bang a bong!


Chime array, you gongety-gong!

Chime a thigh vapor chime.

Hey - will a tam-tam-ah ban Hannah in-ah Japan-ah?

You betcha - it will-ah

So - what ho?

Can we swing a swong - play with me, all night long? (Cool.)

Hey - I got it! (Oh yeah?)

Let’s ching a ch- oops! (Dang!)

Uh-uh, no


On second thought - let’s not ching anything!

Sing song (fling flong)

King kong (ding dong)

Bing bong (swing swong)

Ching nothing!

(King Kong's ding dong?)

I am not a fan of the forced, stilted rhyming that appears in some songs that take themselves too seriously; however, I do like rhyming when it helps to portray a sense of irreverence for censorious rules, and supports light-hearted fun, as in the song “Alphabet Swoop.”

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