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What’s with that ‘go you chicken fat go’ iPhone ad?

By Valerie Strauss
The Washington Post
JFK library, physical fitness banner
- JFK Library

If you’ve heard the song with the lyrics “go you chicken fat go” in ads for iPhones, you may have stopped and wondered what the heck a song about chicken fat has to do with Apple and its telecommunications products. I can’t answer that question, but here’s some background.

The song, titled “The Youth Fitness Song”, was composed in the 1960′s for President John F. Kennedy’s physical fitness program in public schools. The JFK Library’s website has an audio version of the song, written by the writer of “The Music Man” and sung by actor Robert Preston, who was “The Music Man.” Along with the audio is this description:

Description: Chicken Fat, also known as “The Youth Fitness Song.”  Composed for President Kennedy’s Physical Fitness Program. Recordings of this song were sent to school districts throughout the United States to accompany the official U.S. Physical Fitness program of the President’s Council on Physical Fitness

Composer: Meredith Willson

Performer: Robert Preston

Conductor: Bernie Green

Issued by Capitol Records (CF-1000)

Running time 6:25 minutes.

The JFK Library website further explains that the president was extremely interested in promoting physical fitness:

 After the  [1960] election, he published “The Soft American” in Sports Illustrated. The article established four points as the basis of his proposed program, including a “White House Committee on Health and Fitness”; direct oversight by the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare; an annual Youth Fitness Congress to be attended by state governors; and the assertion that physical fitness was very much the business of the federal government….

The oddest contribution to the effort may have been the “Chicken Fat” song. Meredith Willson, creator of The Music Man, wrote the song. It was sung by Robert Preston, the star of the musical. “Chicken Fat” was produced in a three-minute, radio-friendly version and a six-minute version to accompany schoolchildren during workout routines. The song didn’t get much airplay, but the chorus of “go, you chicken fat, go!” was ingrained in the memories of tens of thousands of children doing sit-ups in school gyms around the country.


Valerie Strauss covers education for The Washington Post and runs The Answer Sheet blog.
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