The Flying Fish Sailors have long been known for their irreverent and light-hearted songs, both traditional and original. With "The Flupandemic," the third track on their fourth album Loch Ness Monster, songwriter Greg Henkel has reached a new high (or low, depending on how you look at it). The subject of this upbeat song is the world-wide flu epidemic in 1918, not the happiest time in history.
The song makes it clear that the pandemic was a great equalizer. The egalitarian virus killed millions with no regard for their social stature, occupation, background, or beliefs. If you got it, you died. And because this was a particularly virulant strain of the swine flu, it was hard not to get it. You might well have survived some of the most terrible combat World War I had to offer, but that was no guarantee the flu wouldn't bring you low. Naturally, health care professionals were at the greatest risk, having to face deathly ill patients every day, and something that widespread would surely cause serious problems with many lines of communication. Any contact with an infected person put you at risk, something you had to think about whenever you faced your friends, family, or co-workers. It spread swiftly to all corners of the globe, and left millions upon millions of corpses in its wake. Truly horrific.
So naturally, 90 years later, the Flying Fish Sailors bring us this jaunty little song about this terrible plague:
It was the Flupandemic
And it swept the whole world wide
It caught soldiers and civilians
And they died, died, died!
Whether they're lying in the trenches
Or lying in their beds
Twenty million of them got it
And they're dead, dead, dead!
There was a soldier on the battleground in 1917
He turned there to his buddy with his face a ghastly green
He said "We made it both through Paeschendale, the Somme, and Flanders too
But now my number's up my lad for I've gone and caught the flu"
Well a nurse was in the hospital when Tommy was brought in
When he sneezed she caught a face full that was flying in the wind
She wrote a letter home to England to tell them of her plight
But the letter never got there 'cause the postman too had died
From the meadowlands of Somerset and o'er the bounding main
To the shores of old Americay they sung the same refrain
Mothers, fathers, uncles and aunts as well as the odd nephew
Brothers and sisters and bosses and lovers were all got by the flu
Well a farmer out in China watched his family dropping down
And a businessman in Cairo hit the street without a sound
And an eager little Bolshevik in old Sevastapol couldn't keep up his grinnin' at Lenin as Comrade Virus took its toll
So festive a song was this that I made it part of my daughter's evening routine when she was less than a year old. I put Loch Ness Monster on while getting her dressed after bathtime, and by the time she was snug in her jammies, I would be dancing with her singing along to "The Flupandemic." She especially enjoyed bouncing on the bed on the "died, died, died" and "dead, dead, dead" lines in the chorus.
She'll probably grow up as warped as I am.
Liner notes for Loch Ness Monster
The Spanish Flu of 1918 by Card