The Sunday Dozen: Clown Songs

Lon Chaney in Laugh, Clown, Laugh.

The inspiration for this week’s listicle should be obvious. I wrote two posts in one day about the Brazilian election: Waiting For Bozo and I Think We’re All Bozos On This Bus. An inspired title is a terrible thing not to repeat.

President Bozo seems to be engaging in a slow-motion concession. I’m not sure if he consulted with this guy:

I understand that quirky actor David Arquette has bought the rights to Bozo the clown. It’s unlikely that he’s into Bozo the president. His more famous big sister Patty is an outspoken lefty, after all.

This week’s list is less of a  personal essay than past entries. I don’t have any clown stories to tell. I’m not afraid of clowns. I don’t think they’re funny, but it’s a funny word that led to some swell songs, so why the hell not.

We need some comic relief with a potentially sinister election looming. The process was as simple as your basic clown shtick. I juggled about 20 songs before landing on this dozen.

As always, the songs are arranged in chronological order and reflect my own personal taste such as it is.

We begin with a Cole Porter song from the 1948 MGM musical, The Pirate. It starred Gene Kelly and Judy Garland and was directed by Vincente Minelli, How’s that for star power? But is it piratical or clowny? Beats the hell outta me.

Cathy’s Clown is not about a literal clown but about a guy who feels humiliated by a girlfriend. If it can happen to handsome Don Everly, it can happen to anyone. Here we go:

The Kinks dozen was popular with our readers. This sad clown song just missed the cut.

The Tears Of A Clown is one of the best songs to come out of the Motown music factory. It has it all: great melody, lyrics, and production. You couldn’t go anywhere without hearing it in 1970.

Folk chanteuse Judy Collins had a substantial radio hit with Stephen Sondheim’s Send In The Clowns. Her rendition still sends me.

They Murdered The Clown is one of my favorites on this list. It captures the sheer nastiness of that self-described awful little man, Graham Parker.

The chorus is to die for, literally:

And after the show that night
The clowns had the makeup wiped from their faces
When somebody pulled a knife
And cut off Coco’s bright red braces
They murdered the clown
They wiped that grin right off his face
They murdered the clown
Still the world’s not a funnier place

Dear Madam Barnum is the only clown song without the word in the title. What’s not to love about a song with this lyric: “Dear Madam Barnum, I resign as clown.”

I’ve written at some length about Dwight Yoakam. Pocket Of A Clown is one of his finest singles. It must be snug inside the pocket of a clown, especially while wearing a cowboy hat.

This is the first of two entries from Elvis Costello. I’ve always loved this album cover with the picture of young Declan looking puckish. That’s puckish in the Shakespearean sense, not the hockey sense. I’m not big on ice people sports.

Warren Zevon. Say no more.

Rodeo Clown is a stinging John Mellencamp song about George W. Bush. He was indeed a scary rodeo clown. In this case, he was mauled by a cougar, not a bull.

I’ve been accused on focusing on old songs in my posts. There’s some truth to that. That’s not the case with 2019’s Party Clown by Jenny Lewis. It rounds up our Clown Song dozen. I’m not clowning around.

This week’s lagniappe consists of circus songs from two of my favorite bands: Yes and Los Lobos.

We have a two-fisted last word this week from Elvis Costello and Homey the Clown of In Living Color fame.

Damon Wayans don’t play that.