This charming little ditty might just pass for a children's song until you reach the line: "Hooray for the little mouse That f--ked up the clearing house..."
Written by folk-protest singer Malvina Reynolds, "The Little Mouse" was inspired by a story that appeared on the front page of the San Francisco Chronicle; a mouse got into the wiring of the central clearing house in Buenos Aires, and short circuited its computers. The moral being if one little mouse can do so much damage to the capitalist machine, how much more can we all do?
The fourth verse - which is spoken - concerns a farmer who sued a bank for compensation when its incompetence ruined his business. He was awarded a hundred and fifty thousand dollars, which the bank appealed, only to see the award doubled!
"The Little Mouse" is copyright 1976 Schroder Music Company, renewed 2004; the lyrics have been published on-line by Western Kentucky University, annotated by Charles H. Smith and (Malvina's daughter) Nancy Schimmel. Here the second verse is printed as it usually appears:
"Hooray for the little mouse That mucked up the clearing house, And threw the Stock Exchange in a spin And made the bankers cry."
But a note by Schimmel points out diplomatically that her mother didn't sing the word "mucked" in concert, adding that most singers wouldn't get the shock value she could get from singing "what she did sing".
Which is true, no one would bat an eyelid at the likes of Eminem or Ice Cube rapping in this fashion, but even thirty years and more on, an elderly woman with white hair uttering an expletive on stage is sure to raise an eyebrow or two.
In an interview shortly before her death, Reynolds herself told Dorothy Healey of Pacifica Radio: "It's about an incident, which would seem like a trifling incident. And yet I know it speaks to people's resentment. I hate to generalize this way, because this is exactly what I don't do in the song. People's resentment of the mechanization of society, the computerization of their lives. And so when I wrote the song... I knew that they would respond to it."
According to Nancy Schimmel, her mother once sang "The Little Mouse" for Suni Paz, who based a children's song "El Ratoncito", on it.
Suggestion credit: Alexander Baron - London, England, for all above