Sunday, March 14, 2010

Alligator Pi, Alligator Pi

Happy Pi Day! Today we celebrate all things pi and, because it's tastier, pie. Apple pie, blueberry pie, pumpkin pie, banana cream pie, pizza pie, shepherd's pie, chicken pot pie, and so on and pie forth. In celebration, I'm going to share a little slice of Canadiana with you, a slice of Alligator Pie.

    Alligator pie, alligator pie,
    If I don't get some I think I'm gonna die.
    Give away the green grass, give away the sky,
    But don't give away my alligator pie.

    Alligator stew, alligator stew,
    If I don't get some I don't know what I'll do.
    Give away my furry hat, give away my shoe,
    But don't give away my alligator stew.

    Alligator soup, alligator soup,
    If I don't get some I think I'm gonna droop.
    Give away my hockey stick, give away my hoop,
    But don't give away my alligator soup.

    -Dennis Lee
    Alligator Pie, 1974.
Alligator Pie has been consistently entertaining scores of Canadian children since it's introduction over 30 years ago in the popular and award-winning collection of children's poetry of the same name by Toronto-born poet Dennis Lee. As Canadian as Alligator Pie, one could say.

While Alligator Pie is a modern Canadian classic, it's actually Lee's later 1983 collection Jelly Belly that's nearest and dearest to my heart, his upturned nursery rhymes combined with fascinatingly detailed (sometimes grotesque) illustrations by Juan Wijngaard. It's been a long while since I've read any, but the whimsical humour, sometimes delicious nonsensicalities, and effortless sing-songy nature of his poems recalls the likes of Shel Silverstein, Ogden Nash, or A. A. Milne.

Eddie Douglas - Alligator Pie [based on the poem by Dennis Lee]
Carole Peterson - Alligator Pie [based on the poem by Dennis Lee]

These are two different versions of Alligator Pie put to music. The first is a wonderful folk interpretation from Ontario singer-songwriter Eddie Douglas whose children's album Alligator Ice Cream - Jelly Delight! is completely based on poems written by Dennis Lee. The latter is a sing-a-long for pre-schoolers from Chicago music specialist and educator Carole Peterson. Peterson and a group of kids even make up later verses about alligator cake and alligator pizza. Amusingly, both artists' websites refer to themselves as "a Pied Piper with a guitar" (Douglas) and "the Pied Piper of children's music" (Peterson). I was fascinated to learn that pied (meaning: multi-coloured) and pie (meaning: YUM!) are probably both derived etymologically from magpie...

Rowlf the Dog - Cottleston Pie [based on the poem by A. A. Milne]
From the rare album Ol' Brown Ears is Back, Cottleston Pie is introduced as the little song Winnie-the-Pooh sings to himself when his brain felt fluffy, fittingly another pie-related nonsense poem as sung by Rowlf the Dog AKA Jim Henson.

B. A. Baracus Band - Fraggle Rock [originally written by Dennis Lee/Philip Balsam]
On a related note, Dennis Lee wrote lyrics for Jim Henson's Fraggle Rock television series including the classic opening theme! Henson and Lee also collaborated together on the story for Labyrinth.

    Talk Pi!
    Sing Pi!
    Tweet Pi!
    Eat Pie!
    However you want, celebrate π!
    Also, Happy Birthday Albert Einstein!
Of course, we can't leave without my favourite all-time π song...
Hard 'n Phirm - Pi

No comments: