The Mysterious Origins of “Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes”


“Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes”–it’s the children’s song known all over the world. Boasting a set of unforgettable lyrics and one of the greatest hooks in popular music, the tune burns deep in the mind of any kindergarten grad or irritated parent. But where did it come from? The Danopticon looks into some of the most popular theories. It could have originated:

  • From ancient Egyptian burial customs, which named these four parts as the most sacred parts of the body for mummification
  • As a preparatory song invented by the U.S. Legal system, training children to answer the question, “Where did the bad man touch you?”
  • Conversely, to describe the contents of Jeffrey Dahmer’s fridge
  • As an English adaptation of the Puccini aria Testa, spalle, ginocchia e dita dei piedi–Non potrò mai toccare di nuovo il mio amore (Head, shoulders, knees, and toes, I shall never touch my love again)
  • SPOILER: It never existed, it was all a dream
  • To aid physicians of the Southwest in determining if newborns were harmed by radiation from nuclear testing (the hills have eyes, but the kids might not)
  • As the lone success of a classically trained composer, who had to suffer through the rest of his life knowing that he wasted his talent on a repetitive children’s song

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