This is possibly the most important political campaign song in American history. They Might Be Giants' John Flansburgh has called it the "Rock Around the Clock" and the "I Want to Hold Your Hand" of campaign songs.
"Tippecanoe and Tyler Too" first showed the full potential for campaign songs to significantly help win elections. Deployed in the 1840 presidential race between William Henry Harrison and Martin Van Buren, the song proved instrumental to the race's outcome. As Irwin Silber stated in Songs America Voted By, "It sang Harrison into the presidency."
Harrison ended up having the shortest presidency in US history, dying of natural causes one month after his inauguration.
Tippecanoe is a river in Indiana where Harrison led American troops in a 1811 battle against Native Americans who occupied the land. This earned him a reputation as a war hero, and the "Tippecanoe" association. His pick for vice president was John Tyler, thus "Tippecanoe and Tyler Too."
Even in 1840, politics could get ugly and personal. In this song, Harrison bashes his opponent, Martin Van Buren: "We'll beat little Van.. Van is a used up man."
This was originally published as "Tip and Ty," and that remains the official name. However, it became so well known for the chorus' slogan, "Tippecanoe and Tyler Too," that it's more widely known by that name today.
A jeweler named Alexander Coffman Ross wrote the song in Zanesville, Ohio in 1840. As far as historians can tell, Ross never copyrighted the song.
Ross wrote the song to the music of a song titled "Little Pigs," nearly all of which has been lost to history. The song was first performed at a Whig meeting in Zanesville, Ohio.
This song has been recorded many times throughout history. Howard Da Silva had it on his album Politics and Poker: Songs to Get Elected By. Peter Janovsky recorded it on Winners and Losers: Campaign Songs from the Critical Elections in American History, Volume 1. Oscar Brand recorded it in 1999 for Smithsonian Folkways Recordings on the album Presidential Campaign Songs: 1789–1996. They Might Be Giants did a version for their 2004 benefit album Future Soundtrack for America. Proceeds from the album went towards political causes.