For He's A Jolly Good Fellow

Album: Family Celebration Songs (1783)
Play Video


  • This traditional song has been used for many years to congratulate a person on reaching retirement, a birthday, the birth of a child, or some other significant event or achievement. It is generally sung in a partying, drinking and/or sporting context. The tune originates from the popular French folk song "Marlborough s'en va-t-en guerre" ("Marlborough Has Left for the War"), which was composed the night after the Battle of Malplaquet in 1709. The song was frequently printed in France as "Malbrouk" or "Marlbourouck," or some other variation, after it was popularized by a nurse singing it to one of Marie Antoinette's infants as a lullaby. The first date we have of the melody being associated with the familiar English words was in 1870, in New York, when the tune was known as "We Won't Go Home till Morning." The public domain lyrics are of unknown origin.
  • According to the Guinness Book of World Records, "For He's a Jolly Good Fellow" is the second-most popular song in the English language, following "Happy Birthday."
  • This public domain song is frequently used instead of "Happy Birthday to You" in films and TV to avoid possible copyright issues. Some of the many instances when it has cropped up in movies include The Poseidon Adventure, when it was played by the band on New Year's Eve and in G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra, where the character Zartan habitually whistles the tune. In The Rescuers, a variation of the song, "For Penny's a Jolly Good Fellow," is sung by the orphan kids at the end of the movie.
  • The song is often used in sporting occasions by crowds to toast sporting heroes such as the legendary Australian cricketer Sir Donald Bradman after his famous last Test Match in 1948. Alternatively the tune is frequently borrowed for sports crowd ditties such as the traditional football chant, "We're Gonna Win the League."
  • The 2010 album track by Welsh rock band The Lostprophets, "For He's a Jolly Good Felon," is a play on words on this song.

Comments: 3

  • Richard from Rumford, Rhode IslandThe tune is imbedded in Beethoven ‘s epic orchestral Opus, “Wellingtons’ Victory”. It is used to identify the French Line as they move onto the field. It plays opposite “Rule Britannia “ at the opening . Since Napoleon was often associated with a bear, one might infer that “the bear went over the mountain” could be an anglicized variation on the original theme..This was often done back in the 18th and 19th Century.
  • Barry from Sauquoit, NyOn March 12th 1967, "For He's A Jolly Good Fellow" by Bobby Vinton entered Billboard's Hot Top 100 chart at position #82; it remained on the chart for four weeks, peaking at #66...
    Between 1962 and 1980 he had forty-four records on the Top 100; nine made the Top 10 with four reaching #1, "Roses Are Red (My Love)" {4 weeks in 1962}, "Blue Velvet" {3 weeks in 1963}, "There! I've Said It Again" {4 weeks in 1964}, and "Mr. Lonely" {1 week in 1964}...
    Mr. Vinton, born Stanley Robert Vinton, Jr., will celebrate his 80th birthday in one month on April 16th {2015}...
    God bless him.
  • Emily from Around Chicago, IlWow, this is awesome. First "Happy Birthday To You", now this? Go songfacts!!!
see more comments

Editor's Picks

Rob Thomas of Matchbox Twenty

Rob Thomas of Matchbox TwentySongwriter Interviews

Rob Thomas on his Social Distance Sessions, co-starring with a camel, and his friendship with Carlos Santana.

Def Leppard Quiz

Def Leppard QuizMusic Quiz

Can you name Def Leppard's only #1 hit in America? Get rocked with this adrenalized quiz.

Arrested For Your Art - The Story Of 2 Live Crew's "Obscene" Album

Arrested For Your Art - The Story Of 2 Live Crew's "Obscene" AlbumSong Writing

In the summer of 1990, you could get arrested for selling a 2 Live Crew album or performing their songs in Southern Florida. And that's exactly what happened.

Song Cities

Song CitiesMusic Quiz

Nirvana, Billy Joel and Bruce Springsteen are among those who wrote songs with cities that show up in this quiz.

The Real Nick Drake

The Real Nick DrakeSong Writing

The head of Drake's estate shares his insights on the late folk singer's life and music.

Into The Great Wide Open: Made-up Musicians

Into The Great Wide Open: Made-up MusiciansSong Writing

Eddie (played by Johnny Depp in the video) found fame fleeting, but Chuck Berry's made-up musician fared better.