Some songs, whether you like them or not, can go on forever.
Videos by American Songwriter
Videos by American Songwriter
If you’ve ever been on a bus, you know that’s the case. From “Mary Mack” and “Wheels on the Bus” to “John Jacob Jingleheimer Schmidt,” some refrains never run dry.
And the tune—as you can tell by the title—”The Song That Doesn’t End” is a prime example of that.
But who wrote the song, in the first place, and what’s the story behind it?
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The song in question here goes by two names: “The Song That Doesn’t End” and “The Song That Never Ends.” So, feel free to sing either one on your way home from soccer practice, they’re effectively the same track.
The first major release of the song came in 1988 on an album by singer and puppeteer Shari Lewis. For those that don’t know, Lewis is a Peabody-winning artist known for animating the puppet Lamb Chop. While Lamb Chop was popular in the ’90s, the character’s roots go back to the mid-1950s, first appearing on the popular kids’ show Captain Kangaroo.
“The Song That Doesn’t End” appeared on Lewis’ album, Lamb Chop’s Sing-Along, Play-Along, which was released in 1988 via home video.
The Song Itself
Boasting only one verse, the song can be sung for as long as you want—or as long as you can stomach. It could be an infinite loop. There may even be someone still singing the song, trying to earn a Guinness Book World Record for most years continually singing the refrain.
Today, the song remains popular for long car rides, bus rides, or even moments when a person or three are bored and need to have something to occupy themselves.
Who wrote the song?
The answer isn’t Lewis, per se. Rather it was her longtime producer Bernard Rothman. No, not the 16th-century radical born in 1495. But the television producer who worked with some of the industry’s greats, from Danny Kaye to Pat Boone.
It’s likely you know the lyrics to the song in its entirety, but just in case you need to learn them or need a refresher, here they are, all 33 of them (don’t forget, when you’re done singing them, sing them again):
This is the song that doesn’t end
Yes, it goes on and on, my friends
Some people started singing it not knowing what it was
And they′ll continue singing it forever just because
As noted, the song was a big part of the kids’ television show, Lamb Chop’s Play-Along, which aired on PBS in 1992.
At the end of each episode, the characters on the show would sing the song while Lewis would try to get them to stop. Lewis barely could succeed with the show’s character Charlie Horse trying to get everyone to being again, until Lewis was able to mute him with her hand over his mouth.
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While Lamb Chop made the song famous, it has been noted in other bits of popular culture since then, including on the album, Space Ghost’s Musical Bar-B-Que, in which it’s sung by the animated character Brak. The song is also on an episode of the family sitcom Smart Guy, sung to annoy a man while trying to win a car in a competition.
Finally, YouTuber Jordan Raskopoulos sang a five-hour-thirty-one-minute version to raise “a bunch of cash” for LGBTQIA+ youth.
Though the song is sometimes used to annoy others, at the heart of it, it’s a fun ditty. To be obnoxious can be satisfying at times and to do it in a song is especially so. This tune offers that chance, albeit briefly or at great lengths.
Photo by Evening Standard/Hulton Archive/Getty Images