Because of a fluke in the way copyright laws have been written, practically nothing has fallen into the public domain in about a generation. I wrote a little bit about that problem five years ago but that was really a pretty cursory explanation. If you really want the whole story check out this article in The Atlantic. It’s pretty clear that copyright laws in this country are quite a bit different from the way they were imagined in 1790. Then again the world’s a different place too.
I am probably risking a bit of litigation, then, by publishing this YouTube link:
You see, it will be copyright-free on January 1, 2019. As of today there’s probably a rightsholder somewhere who is owed a royalty on it.
But I can’t help it. I love this song, although I can’t tell you quite why. Wikipedia disagrees with my about its origin. I had heard that the authors actually saw a sign that read, “YES! We have no bananas” while walking to work. They say it was simply that the author knew a grocer who started every sentence with “Yes…” Either way it’s a cute novelty tune.
It’s been covered dozens of times as recently as the 1980s. I recall in my younger days there was a Heckel and Jeckel cartoon that used that song as a soundtrack. Strangely it doesn’t appear on YouTube. Perhaps it’s copyrighted.
I don’t know what it is, whether it’s the catchy tune or its absurdity. Maybe it’s that it’s probably the only song in history to include the word “cognomen” in it. You just don’t find a lot of Latin in pop music.
But whatever it is, it’s a neat little novelty song that, thanks to copyright law, has been completely protected since its publication in 1923. That is, until next January when we can finally sing it out loud without any worries about breaking the law.