Shake It Down to Your Bones

Hello, all you teachers and other musical people getting ready to sing some awesome songs for the Halloween season! It’s less than two weeks away. At our Children’s Music Network conference last weekend, some people wondered if we should stop singing the song “Dem Bones,” given concerns about singing old songs that might be racially offensive.  I looked up the song, because this has traditionally been one of my favorite songs to sing with children at Halloween. I took out the line about “Hear the word of the Lord,” because in most schools and libraries, we don’t sing about the Lord. But should we change “Dem Bones” to “These Bones”? It always felt a little strange to me – one way or the other.

Based on what I found, the song itself should not be considered offensive. In fact, it was written by James Weldon Johnson. It was adapted from text in the book of Ezekiel in the Bible. But should a white person be singing it, in the original dialect? Not a great idea, to my mind. And if that feels weird, should one be changing the words to appeal to school children? Turning the Biblical text into a Halloween song, or a song to teach children about bones?

On balance, I decided I felt more comfortable coming up with a new bone song. Just click that link to get to the SoundCloud file. Let me know what you think! I plan to share it with my school classes and next weekend’s Halloween library show in Concord, MA. The lyrics are pretty simple … shake whatever bones you like, take a walk or do a dance, or whatever your bones feel like doing.

Buh-Buh Bones

(c) 2018 by Liz Buchanan

Buh-Buh Bones, Buh-Buh Bones

Buh-buh-buh-buh Bones

Buh-Buh Bones, Buh-Buh Bones

Buh-buh-buh-buh Bones

 

Everybody shake your arm bones

Buh-buh-buh-buh Bones

Shake that arm, shake that arm

Buh-buh-buh-buh Bones

 

Everybody shake your leg bones

Buh-buh-buh-buh Bones

Shake one leg, then the other leg

Buh-buh-buh-buh Bones.

Now it’s time to take a walk

Buh-buh-buh-buh Bones

Walk and walk, now don’t you stop

Buh-buh-buh-buh Bones

Buh-Buh Bones, Buh-Buh Bones

Buh-buh-buh-buh Bones

Buh-Buh Bones, Buh-Buh Bones

Buh-buh-buh-buh Bones!

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3 Responses to Shake It Down to Your Bones

  1. Jane says:

    Love the thought and the song!

  2. Susan D says:

    Hi Liz,
    thank you for this song. It was a super hit with my kindergarten class! They love the jazzy beat and we started it with finger snaps. We found every bone to shake and had a great time.
    For days someone would start singing it during “work” time, and they would all break out into song!
    Warmly,
    Susan D.

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