What better way to pay homage to April Fools’ Day than sing about it—or listen to people who know how to sing sing about it (if you ask me how a local prison stole its way into that sentence, I’ll plead the Fifth).
April Fools’ Day has inspired some great popular music. The headline up there is one of my favorites, by Anthony Newley, from a 1960s Broadway musical he starred in and wrote, bearing the always timely, head-spinning title of “Stop the World, I Want to Get Off.”
As with just about all songs with that four-letter word in the title, “What Kind of Fool Am I” is, of course, a love song.
One of my wife Elyse’s favorite vocalists, Michael McDonald, rocks it out on The Doobie Brothers’ “What a Fool Believes.”
FRANKIE WAS FIRST
“Why Do Fools Fall in Love” is a classic doo-wop song fondly remembered by Boomers. Apparently, though, it’s not too well remembered by the fools curating websites devoted to song lyrics.
Based on a quick search I did, it’s almost as if they think the song first became popular in 1981, as sung by Diana Ross of The Supremes. They’re off by only a quarter-century. The song, which hit No. 1 on the charts in 1956, was written and performed by Frankie Lymon and The Teenagers. Frankie is the subject of a 1998 movie titled same as the song.
While we’re hanging around the mid-20th century street corner, let’s not forget The Shirelles singing “Foolish Little Girl,” of 1963 vintage.
Remember the cryptic lyrics in “The Fool on the Hill”? Paul McCartney says they were meant, in part, as a defense of The Beatles’ one-time spiritual guru Maharashi Mahesh Yogi.
DON’T MESS WITH MAHARISHI.
Where critics scoffed at what they saw as his silly persona, the boys valued the man’s wisdom. McCartney’s lyrics basically mock those who mocked the Maharishi.
The one and only Elvis Pretzel (as we called swivel-hipster Presley in the day when his lower-body thrusts shocked TV censors), had a big hit with “Fools Rush In (Where Angels Fear to Tread).”
Then there’s the sublime torch song “I’m a Fool to Want You,” essayed by the legendary likes of Billie Holiday and some blue-eyed board chairman named Frank who fooled around with a bunch of guys known as the Rat Pack.
Our April Fools’ hit parade culminates with The Who’s defiant denunciation of the establishment, “Won’t Get Fooled Again.” Except songwriter and cynic Pete Townshend explained it’s less a song about revolution than against revolution, as conveyed in the irony of the lyrical coda, “Meet the new boss, same as the old boss.” In other words, why bother? You’ll end up pretty much in the same place as you began.
OK, enough of that foolishness. What’s the origin story behind April Fools’ Day, you must be wondering. Well, it started a little while ago, in 1582. You might recall that the Council of Trent—you know, the one in 1563—mandated that the Julian calendar become Gregorian.
Since this was just before the internet came along, with its headache-inducing 24/7 news cycle, not everybody heard about the calendar flip.
As it turns out, the old calendar’s new year was—you guessed it!—April 1. You could imagine the bizarre scene when the people not up on the latest news obliviously continued to pop the cork, wear silly hats, and crank noisemakers on April 1 instead of the new New Year date of January 1.
What a bunch of April fools they must’ve looked like—not unlike we look today on New Year’s Eve.
Like Pete Townshend said, some things never change.
Bruce Apar is a writer, actor, consultant, and community volunteer. He can be reached at email@example.com; 914-275-6887.