Too much tertiary education... Former performer/wrestler, teacher, scientist; Published author & Father... Want to be a writer if I grow up...
Published June 15th 2021
Don't be afraid
Coulrophobia is the unreasonable fear of clowns. It dates back years. Edgar Allen Poe wrote about a killer clown in the 1800s. The clown Tom Fool (that's where the word "tomfoolery" comes from) who allegedly killed many people died about the year 1600 in Cumbria. Clowns have been a source of joy and fear in equal measure for a very long time.
However, I like clowns. I have been a comic acrobat earlier in my life. They are just comedians in a different guise. But when you look at songs about clowns, there is something depressing about them, as if being a clown has to be hiding something.
So, with that in mind, here are ten songs about clowns. You might notice a proliferation of clown songs around 1967. I was not sure why, but a bit of research told me that 1966 and 1967 were when the first huge increases in troops being sent to Vietnam occurred. No wonder clowns were depressed.
Wow, I'm depressing myself as well. Let's just listen to clown songs, shall we?
'Cathy's Clown' by Everly Brothers (1960)
A man is made a fool of – a clown, if you will – by the titular Cathy in this, one the Everly Brothers' biggest hits. The glorious harmonies, the simple guitar lines – they really were a great duo.
'Goodbye Cruel World' by James Darren (1961)
No, clown is not in the title, but the singer is joining the circus to become a clown because he was dumped by his girlfriend. The jaunty music and fun sound actually belie quite a sad song. Cool track, one that I feel has been forgotten.
'Everybody Loves A Clown' by Gary Lewis And The Playboys (1965)
Apparently, the singer is quite the joker, the life of the party, and everybody thinks he's great… except the girl he really likes. Another jaunty song with a depressing undertone. And this coming from the son of Jerry Lewis! (No, seriously, he was.)
'Tears Of A Clown' by Smoky Robinson And The Miracles (1967)
This is one of the best known 'clown songs', how the façade of a fun-loving joker can hide the real pain beneath. This song is a wonderful one, and has been covered numerous times.
My favourite cover is a rock version by Caligula (1993).
'Ha! Ha! Said The Clown' by Manfred Mann (1967)
We stick with the clown pretending to be happy while being sad motif with this odd, upbeat song, one of the tracks that led indirectly to the break-up of the band. Shame, but despite this being a fine song, later recordings showed they had grown out of this sort of fun pop.
'Death Of A Clown' by Dave Davies (1967)
The debut solo single by Kinks member Dave Davies, brother of bandleader Ray, who wrote it, and the track also appeared on a Kinks album later the same year. It is about being worn down by constant performing and is a sad song, but a very good one.
'Send In The Clowns' by Judy Collins (1975)
Written by Stephen Sondheim for a 1973 stage musical, this song was recorded by many artists, including Frank Sinatra, Barbra Streisand and Dame Judy Dench, but no-one could match Judy Collins and the emotion she put into this magnificent rendition. Beautiful song.
'Clown Show' by Ednaswap (1997)
Ednaswap are best known for recording the original version of the song 'Torn', which became a hit for Natalie Imbruglia at the same time this song was released as a single. A heavy, pounding track, it is a strong song from a forgotten band.
'Can't Sleep, Clowns Will Eat Me' by Alice Cooper (2000)
A really strange song from Alice Cooper, but which is fun despite being so dark. I quite liked a lot of Cooper's later albums, and the one this song comes from – Brutal Planet – is no exception.
'Tears Of A Clown' by Iron Maiden (2015)
Written in tribute to Robin Williams following the latter's death in 2014. Following a similar motif of joking hiding pain to the earlier song it shares its title with, this is still a fine addition to the Iron Maiden canon.
There we are – ten songs and eleven pieces of music about clowns. Regular readers are probably stunned by the complete lack of songs from the 1980s, but maybe having Ronald Reagan as US president just made people not want to sing about clowns. As it is, most songs about clowns are apparently, at their core, depressing. Maybe coulrophobics are onto something after all.