Tuesday, June 10, 2014

The President Kennedy and Chicken Fat Song Connection

Anyone who was in school during the 60s remembers the President's Physical Fitness program, instituted by President Kennedy, and the tests you took to prove how American Strong you were. For me, it was the chin up that was my demise, my flabby arms unable to lift me up more than once, and I am not even sure I did it once.

The program had a television commercial that I have been desperately searching for. It featured a depiction of a human as a head on a TV screen that barked orders to a robot. Where it should be taken, etc. At one point, the robot just wanders off, leaving the TV head person to just keep shouting at the robot whose name I seem to remember was "Z-12." The moral of the story? Use your body, or someday you won't have one anymore. It was an idea that resurfaces in the the Pixar animated film, "Wall E" where bloated, obese humans have every need met by robots and machinery. Cautionary tales meant to inspire us to take care of our bodies and the planet.

I remembered the President's Physical Fitness challenge with a wistful nostalgia, a noble idea that never quite got me to improve my chin-up performance, but did serve as a source of reward for those more athletically inclined, including my own children when they were in grammar school. What I never remembered, until now, was that this program also came with an evil, menacing, demeaning piece of music that has been recently resurrected by a commercial for Apple. 

It appears that the "Chicken Fat" song, which became the soundtrack of my adolescent nightmares, was actually titled "The Youth Fitness Song" and it was commissioned by the President's Council on Physical Fitness. Written by Meredith Wilson ("The Music Man") and recorded by "Music Man" star, Robert Preston. My brain, which has been screaming since I first heard this song playing in the commercial, is now on full about-to-meltdown red alert. Say it isn't so!

Oh yes, we've got trouble, right here in EVERY CITY IN AMERICA. Sure, Apple shortens the torture, it almost sounds catchy. But listen to it, preserved for posterity on the JFK Library website. 

And if you want to sing along, here, via Lyrics Playground, are the words. Every torturous verse.


Noreen said...

And now I see that this monstrosity has been re-recorded and re-released to be inflicted on a new generation. But I do love what JFK said it reminded him of... http://detroitkidshow.com/chicken_fat.htm

Mike Sylwester said...

I stole your Chicken Fat article for my own blog.


I also write a blog about opossums.