A-Tisket, A-Tasket

This past weekend, my friend Windy and I spent a good portion of Sunday watching and/or listening to various musicals. At the end of the night, she learned that I’d never heard any of the music for Rent, so before I left, she made sure I’d at least heard the song “La Vie Boheme”.

Of course, my ears particularly picked up on this snippet of the song:

…and I knew I had my next Sound and the Foley article.

If you grew up in an English-speaking country, you will likely recognize that tune (if not the lyrics) from a children’s rhyme known as “A-Tisket, A-Tasket”.

A-tisket a-tasket
A green and yellow basket
I wrote a letter to my love
And on the way I dropped it,
I dropped it, I dropped it,
And on the way I dropped it.
A little boy he picked it up and put it in his pocket.

According to The Big Band Reader: Songs Favored by Swing Era Orchestras and Other Popular Ensembles by Studwell and Baldwin, this tune/rhyme originated in the U.S. around 1879. According to Wikipedia, the song was part of a game: “It was sung while children danced in a circle. One of the number ran on the outside of the circle and dropped a handkerchief. The nearest child would then pick it up and chase the dropper. If caught the dropper was either kissed, joined the circle, or had to tell the name of their sweetheart.”

If you just looked at the previous paragraph and wondered why a text on big band music was giving history on an 1879 children’s rhyme, it’s because the tune is also quite famous for being a jazz standard. The jazz version was crafted by singing legend Ella Fitzgerald and Al Feldman. With Fitzgerald accompanied by the Chick Webb Orchestra, the song became a huge hit in 1938.

By 1942, Ella Fitzgerald was singing the song in the Abbot and Costello film, Ride ‘Em Cowboy:

The song even inspired a sequel song, by Ella Fitzgerald and Chick Webb, named “I Found My Yellow Basket”. The sequel wasn’t as big of a hit, but that didn’t prevent Ella’s first version from being inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1986.

Aside from the Fitzgerald version, the Tisket/Tasket song shows up in many other places:

* In the Tex Avery Loony Tunes short “Magical Maestro” (which is a goldmine of other musical references), the tune shows up around the 4:30 mark.

* In the film Two Girls and a Sailor (1944), the tune was performed by June Allyson and Gloria DeHaven.

* A snippet of the song is heard in The Master (2012) with altered lyrics.

* And of course, there are those old Triscuit TV ads:

Where else have you heard this tune?


  1. We sang this rhyme at school during recess and played a circle game. I do not recall all the words but the ones I remember are not the same after the first verse. Fun to explore versions and I do remember the Ella Fitz jazz one.

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