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Send In The Clowns


Judy Collins

Songfacts®:  You can leave comments about the song at the bottom of the page.

This song was originally from Stephen Sondheim's 1973 musical A Little Night Music. He wrote it in one night three nights before the opening night as the leading lady, Glynis Johns, didn't have her own song. In the musical, Johns' character is looking back on her life with great disappointment when she performs this song.
Apart from Judy Collins, this has been covered by many artists including Frank Sinatra and Barbra Streisand, for whom Sondheim added a verse.
As Glynis Johns had a breathy voice and a limited range, Sondheim wrote the song with short phrases and a small music range of only an octave. She won a 1973 Tony award for her role in the musical.
The title refers to a phrase reputedly used in a circus when an unforeseen disaster had occurred, with the clowns being sent in to distract the audience from the problem. It's a metaphor for a tragic fall from grace. (thanks, Edward Pearce - Ashford, Kent, England, for all above)
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Comments (4):

On December 4th, 1976 Judy Collins performed "Send in the Clowns" on ABC-TV program 'American Bandstand'...
Ms. Collins will celebrate her 75th birthday this coming May 1st, 2014...
- Barry, Sauquoit, NY
To me, this song is quite sorrowful. I have heard that some regard this song as an anthem to regret for unwise decisions in the past. Also, it may refer to a recognition that there is no need to send in the clowns because they are already there. As above mentioned, this is a metaphor for a mistake that has already occurred and there is no use to try to correct with any means.Too late for the clowns to be sent in.

By the way, I do like many parts of this song eg. "One who keeps tearing around,One who can't move" , "What a surprise,what a clich" and so on.
- thyrocyte, Bangkok, Thailand
Judy Collins released this song in 1975 and it peaked at #36; then two years later it was re-released and this time it reached #19... {In 1969 she charted with "Someday Soon", it only peaked at #55, it was such a good song I was surpized it didn't do better}
- Barry, Sauquoit, NY
Shouldn't Glynis Johns be mentioned since she originated the song (she is best remembered today as Mrs. Banks in Mary Poppins) The show was based on Smiles of a Summer Night an Igmar Bergman film about two Swedish couples who go on a weekend on a country and there is a lot of... well Clive Barnes of the New York Times said "God God, an adult musical!". Most of the songs including this one were written in three quarter waltz time.
There was a movie versison starring Liz Taylor directed by Harold Prince but it was rather awful because it switched locations from Sweden to Vienna. Glenn Close was to star in a Broadway revival but it never happened!
- Sara, Silver Spring, MD
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