Skinnamarinky-What? The Origins of NL Folk Fest Performers’ Hit Kids Song

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Sharon and Bram, of Sharon, Lois, and Bram will take the stage Saturday afternoon at the 41st annual Folk Festival in Bannerman Park. The classic Canadian band formed in 1978, after the trio met while performing at a School program.

That same year, they borrowed 20 grand from their family and friends, to record their big debut, One Elepant, Deux Elephants. It remains one of the best selling Canadian Children’s’ albums of all time. By 1984, they had their own CBC show, called The Elephant Show.

After years of touring their memorable stage performance, and dazzling kids and parents alike, they became well known for, among other things, incorporating fun, nonsense rhymes into their eclectic songs of the folk, jazz, swing, calypso, country, and even rock’n’roll persuasions.

It’s no surprise then, that the band adapted the traditional preschooler hit “Skinnamarink” (AKA “Skidamarink, depending who’s singing it — because it’s gibberish, it’s been recorded under a few different spellings).

They discovered the song by knowing their audience (kids) and trusting a child’s unique instincts for what constitutes a hit with the kids. Lois asked her cousin’s daughter the classic, “Know any good songs?” The little girl put her on to Skinamarink, a weird song she heard at her daycamp that week.

The song appears to have been originally written by Felix F. Feist, as “Skiddy-Mer-Rink-Adink-Aboomp,” with music by Al Piantadosi, a famed American composer of popular music, primarily in the 1910s and 20s. The duo put the song together for a 1910 broadway production called Echo.

Cue to their breakout debut album One Elepant, Deux Elephants in 1978, and Sharon, Lois, and Bram’s adaptation of the song became a megahit in Canada, that lasted the ages. Plenty of Canadians have a special, nostalgic place in their heart for this song:

“Skinnamarink” actually went on to become the theme song for their TV show, The Elephant Show. In fact, their second show was named after the song: Skinamarink TV. There’s even a skating rink in Toronto named after the hit song sensation: The Skinama-rink (no joke on the pun).

Sharon, Lois, and Bram did rework the song a fair bit. The verses differ greatly, and the chorus was changed from:

Skiddy-mer-rink-a-dink-a-boomp, skiddy-mer-rink-a-doo,
Means I love you.
Skiddy-mer-rink-a-dink-a-boomp, skiddy-mer-rink-a-doo,
Means I’ll be true.

to what we know today:

Skidamarink a-dink, a-dink,
Skidamarink a-doo,
I love you. (repeat)

After selling hundreds of thousands of albums worldwide, they became the face of Unicef’s Trick or Treat Campaign, and were even invited to the White House for its Easter Egg Hunt, by Bill and Hillary Clinton.  All three members of the band were named to the Order of Canada, making Lois (Chicago-born) one of very few non-Canadians to receive the honour. Lois passed away in 2015.

About Author

Chad Pelley

Chad Pelley is an author, songwriter, and journalist who wrote for publications like the Globe & Mail and The Telegraph-Journal before founding The Overcast. Now he spends 25 hours a day keeping up with his email, and has no time to be his former self.

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