Organs In A Jar (Y8+)
lyrics by some unruly middle schoolers with help from Tim; to the tune of Whiskey In The Jar (Irish trad)
Tutankhamen was a pharaoh of the land along the river
And when he died his people dried his stomach and his liver
His lungs and his intestine went into the salt of natron
Then stored in four canopic jars, each with a godly patron
(chorus) When a pharaoh died (clap x4) he’d be cut and dried (clap x2)
His body mummified, his organs in a jar
They put a hook into his nose and gently drew his brains out
Be careful where you put ‘em or you’ll never get the stains out
They dried him out for sixty days, it was a lot of work; he
Might once have been a mighty king… but now he’s just a jerky!
When he was done with desiccation, they removed the salt he’d been in
They wrapped him up in resin and a hundred yards of linen
They laid him in a coffin and sarcophagus to rest in
With jars to hold his lungs and liver, stomach and intestine
So they sealed him in a secret tomb with charms and wards and curses
He laid there through three thousand years and far too many verses
The pyramids were plundered but the secret tomb was smarter
We might have never found him if it weren’t for Howard Carter
(repeat chorus x2)
This song came out of one of my academic songwriting residencies, where the teacher picks a topic and I help their kids research and write a song about it to an existing tune.
In this case, the assigned topic was ancient Egypt (this was a middle school ancient civ class) but getting the kids engaged was tricky as their textbook was as dry as the desert outside the Nile valley. For inspiration, I went back to James Burke's wonderful book CONNECTIONS to see if I could find something to pique their interest. Eventually a song emerged and the kids agreed any civilization crazy enough to do stuff like this has got to be worth a closer look.
There are no broadly accepted multi-state standards for history, but most states prescribe some kind of ancient civilizations class in middle school. If you happen to be in California, here is one academic content standard addressed by this song:
CA HSS 6.2.3: Understand the relationship between religion and the social and political order in Mesopotamia and Egypt.
Your state probably has something like that in your standards. However, it should be noted the real purpose of this song is not to teach embalming techniques but to pique kids' interest in archeology and ancient civilizations generally. Speaking of which, if you have kids in (or getting ready for) middle school I highly recommend you find a way to share James Burke's TV series with them, also called CONNECTIONS; along with CONNECTIONS 2 and CONNECTIONS 3 if possible. They are very pricy on DVD, but maybe you can check them out from your local library or find them streaming somewhere. Burke is a gifted storyteller with a knack for humanizing long-dead people and the things they did. Another recommendation for middle schoolers: the Horrible Histories (books and TV series) are engaging, informative, and delightfully creepy.
Chords (in key of C): C, Am, F, G. You can include some 7ths etc. as you like, but those are optional.