On May 14, National Dance Like A Chicken Day is celebrated by recalling fond memories of performing the iconic Chicken Dance. Everybody has performed the Chicken Dance, whether in elementary school or at a party last week. While ‘The Chicken Dance Song’ and its accompanying oompah music originated in Switzerland in the 1950s, it wasn’t until the 1970s that the song became popular in the United States. Today, put on the Chicken Dance song and dance with the children in your life to it.
The background of National Dance Like a Chicken Day
Werner Thomas, a young Swiss accordionist, is credited with penning the original rendition of “The Chicken Dance” song, which is now an almost universal cultural phenomenon. Twenty-years-old at the time, he composed the popular song on his Swiss accordion during the late 1950s. The song’s original title was ‘Der Ententanz,’ or ‘The Duck Dance,’ presumably because he cared for a colony of ducks and geese. Some claim it was composed for Oktoberfest and based on a renowned German drinking song.
In 1963, Thomas’s restaurant was the birthplace of the duck-inspired dance movements we all know today as “The Duck Dance.” It was as if they were compelled to move to the music! In the 1970s, Thomas renamed the tune ‘Tchirp-Tchirp,’ which was more evocative of the animals he cared for. Over a decade, the first Chicken Dance composition was exclusive to a small Swiss resort town.
After hearing Thomas’ song in a resort, Louis Van Rymenant, a Belgian music producer, added lyrics and disseminated it to the public. Obviously, it took flight. By the 1970s, ‘The Duck Dance’ and its signature dance movements had spread to the United States. September Music Corporation acquired the rights in the United States and altered the title to ‘Dance Little Bird.’ The song’s publisher, Stanley Mills, attempted to include English lyrics, but they were never popular.
In the 1980s, De Electronica, a Dutch band that released an instrumental version of the song, and another polka band — the song was included on their album titled “Hooked on Polkas!” — each recorded their own versions of the song. In spite of Mills’ best efforts, the composition did not become a chart-topper in the early 1980s.
However, by the late 1980s, the Duck Dance had been renamed The Chicken Dance and was being performed at events ranging from Oktoberfests to birthday parties. After Mills permitted the song to be included on a compilation of dance successes, ‘The Chicken Dance’ exploded beyond the dance genre. It has been used in everything from commercials to karaoke and has performed well on the charts and financially in subsequent decades. Today, it is still extremely popular at all types of gatherings, and we all have nothing but affection for the ridiculous tune.
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5 Interesting Facts About the Chicken Dance
‘The Chicken Dance Song’ was originally titled ‘Der Ententanz,’ which translates to ‘The Duck Dance.’
Over 40 million copies of the song have been sold worldwide, with over 140 variants of the song having been recorded.
Following the 1980 publication of ‘De Vogeltjesdans’ (or ‘Dance Little Bird’) by Dutch band De Electronica, the song spent 29 weeks on the Dutch charts, peaking at #8!
Legend has it that at the 1981 Oktoberfest in Tulsa, Oklahoma, the German polka band played ‘Dance Little Bird’ and taught the duck dance while donning chicken costumes; they believe this is where the current name originated.
Since Mills permitted the melody to be used in television commercials, his annual income from it increased from $7,000 in 1990 to $50,000 in 1995.
NATIONAL DANCE LIKE A CHICKEN DAY DATES