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Allan Sherman, “Folksinger”

November 30, 2017
Song parodist Allan Sherman (born Allan Copelon — he took his mother’s birth name after his parents’ divorce), was born in Chicago on this date in 1924. His 1962 debut song-parody record, My Son, the Folksinger, became the fastest-selling album until that time. Sherman’s strength was in setting silly lyrics to classical music (as in “Hello Muddah, hello Faddah, here I am at Camp Granada...” — a #2 hit on the charts in 1963 — whose tune was borrowed from a segment of Amilcare Ponchielli’s Dance of the Hours) and writing spoofs that evoked a suburban, assimilationist Jewish-American sensibility. His parody of “Frere Jacques,” “Sarah Jackman” (“Sarah Jackman, Sarah Jackman, how’s by you?” — scroll down to see him performing it) became a smash hit after President Kennedy was spotted in a hotel lobby singing it. Sherman produced several more successful novelty records, including My Son, the Celebrity and My Son, the Nut (both 1963), even while being sued by creators of the material he had parodied. He also conceived and produced the hit CBS television game show, I’ve Got a Secret, which aired for more than fifteen years. Sherman’s stardom was short-lived, though, a victim of both the Beatles’ domination of the pop culture scene and the changing mood of the country following JFK’s assassination. He ended his life sick with diabetes, divorced, and living on unemployment insurance before dying of emphysema at age 48. “The difference between reality and unreality is that reality has so little to recommend it.” --Allan Sherman, A Gift of Laughter: The Autobiography of Allan Sherman