My Grandfather's Clock

song written in 1876 by Henry Clay Work

"My Grandfather's Clock" is a song. Henry Clay Work wrote it in 1876. Henry Clay Work also wrote "Marching Through Georgia". British brass bands and colliery bands play "My Grandfather's Clock". Bluegrass musicians also play it.

The Oxford English Dictionary says the word "grandfather clock" comes from this song. Before that, grandfather clocks were called "longcase clocks". In 1905, Harry Macdonough and the Haydn Quartet (known then as the "Edison Quartet") made the first recording of this song that people know about.

StorylineEdit

Henry Clay Work saw a clock in a Piercebridge hotel and thought of the song.

The song is told from a grandchild's point of view. The song is about their grandfather's clock.

The clock is purchased on the morning of the grandfather's birth and works perfectly for 90 years, requiring only that it be wound at the end of each week.

The clock seems to know good and bad things that happen in the grandfather's life: It rings 24 chimes when the grandfather brings his new wife into his house. Near the grandfather's death, it rings an alarm, so the family gathers by his bed. After the grandfather dies, the clock stops and it never works again.

SequelEdit

Work wrote a sequel to the song two years later. The grandchild is the narrator again. The grandson says he is sad that the clock no longer works. The clock is sold to a junk dealer, who sells its parts and sells its case for people to burn. In the grandfather's house, the clock is replaced by a wall clock. The grandchild does not like the wall clock and calls it "that vain, stuck-up thing on the wall". The sequel was never as popular as the original.

Covers and inspirationsEdit

The song was performed and translated many times. In the Czech version, sung by the country band Taxmeni, the song continues with an additional, joyful strophe, narrating further events in the grandson's life: the birth of his son and the purchase of a new clock on the same day, to maintain the family tradition.

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"My Grandfather's Clock" was often played in Britain on Children's Favourites. It was recorded by the Radio Revellers. In the United States, a version, without the last stanza of lyrics was recorded on an extended-play 45 rpm vinyl record on the Peter Pan label. (The other song on that side was "The Syncopated Clock", and the other side had "The Arkansas Traveler" and "Red River Valley".) Johnny Cash covered the song on his 1959 album Songs of Our Soil. Evelyn Knight recorded the song for Decca Records. In 1959, it was included on the Four Lads' album, Swing Along. Other versions became popular in other countries, for example, in Japan, singer Ken Hirai performed a cover, which became massively popular in 2002.

In March 1961, on his album Swing Low, Sam Cooke sang the song.

Bing Crosby sang the song in a medley on his album 101 Gang Songs (1961).

The song was the inspiration for the 1963 Twilight Zone episode "Ninety Years Without Slumbering".

The Big 3 recorded the song in their album "Live at the Recording Studio" in 1964

A popular clock toy, marketed by Fisher-Price from 1962 to 1968, had a dial on it that, when turned, caused the music box mechanism in the toy to play the song along with clock-like ticking and moving hands on the face of the clock. A new version of the toy (which is completely made of plastic and has other activities like a clicking plastic mouse on the side) has been manufactured by Fisher-Price since 1994. Other companies have also made imitations of the toy worldwide.

Jon Pertwee recorded a version in 1966 for the children's album Children's Favourites, on the Music for Pleasure record label.

John Fahey recorded a solo guitar version on his 1967 album Days Have Gone By.

Joan Morris recorded it in 1975, on Who Shall Rule This American Nation (Nonesuch), an album of songs by Work.

In 1983, Fred Penner, a Canadian children's entertainer, covered "My Grandfather's Clock" on the LP album Special Delivery, which was later rereleased as Ebenezer Sneezer on CD in 1994.

Red Grammer recorded the song on his 1994 family music recording, Down The Do Re Mi.

The Kenneth Williams character Rambling Syd Rumpo wrote a joke version of this song, "My Grandfather's Grunge", on the BBC radio show Round the Horne. It was written by Barry Took and Marty Feldman.

Garrison Keillor and the cast of the radio show A Prairie Home Companion recorded a parody titled "My Grandmother's Cat", telling the story of an old woman who overfed her cat until it was big enough to knock her down and try to eat her.

"My Grandfather's Clock" is a playable song in the 2008 video game Wii Music.

This song was also used in the video game, Five Nights at Freddy's 2, made by Scott Cawthon. It was released on November 10, 2014. The chorus of the song plays whenever a music box is wound up to keep one of the game's animatronic enemies away.

It was also sung by Maple and Cinnamon in the third volume of Nekopara visual novel series.

Original LyricsEdit

The City Green in Union Park of Middletown, Connecticut includes this bust of the author near his birthplace.

My grandfather's clock was too large for the shelf,

So it stood ninety years on the floor;

It was taller by half than the old man himself,

Though it weighed not a pennyweight more.

It was bought on the morn of the day that he was born,

And was always his treasure and pride;

But it stopp'd short — never to go again —

When the old man died.

Ninety years without slumbering (tick, tick, tick, tick),
His life seconds numbering, (tick, tick, tick, tick),
It stopp'd short never to go again when the old man died

In watching its pendulum swing to and fro,

Many hours had he spent while a boy.

And in childhood and manhood the clock seemed to know

And to share both his grief and his joy.

For it struck twenty-four when he entered at the door,

With a blooming and beautiful bride;

But it stopp'd short — never to go again —

When the old man died.

Ninety years without slumbering (tick, tick, tick, tick),
His life seconds numbering, (tick, tick, tick, tick),
It stopp'd short — never to go again —
When the old man died.

My grandfather said that of those he could hire,

Not a servant so faithful he found;

For it wasted no time, and had but one desire —

At the close of each week to be wound.

And it kept in its place — not a frown upon its face,

And its hands never hung by its side.

But it stopp'd short — never to go again —

When the old man died.

Ninety years without slumbering (tick, tick, tick, tick),
His life seconds numbering, (tick, tick, tick, tick),
It stopp'd short never to go again - when the old man died.

It rang an alarm in the dead of the night —

An alarm that for years had been dumb;

And we knew that his spirit was pluming for flight —

That his hour of departure had come.

Still the clock kept the time, with a soft and muffled chime,

As we silently stood by his side;

But it stopp'd short — never to go again —

When the old man died.

Ninety years without slumbering (tick, tick, tick, tick),
His life seconds numbering, (tick, tick, tick, tick),
It stopp'd short — never to go again —
When the old man died.

ReferencesEdit

  • Zecher, Henry (October 2005). "How an old floor clock became a grandfather". The Pride of Olney (Lion's Club of Olney, Maryland) 30 (76). Retrieved 12 August 2013. on Henry Zecher's personal website

Other websitesEdit