Apple chose an odd, snappy tune

Published 10:57 pm Saturday, July 5, 2014

Since I listen to more television than I watch, it wasn’t until at least the third time I heard Apple’s new iphone commercial that I figured out what was being advertised.

For the uninitiated, the commercial features images of people running, doing calisthenics, and in the background is a rather unusual song.

“The Youth Fitness Song” was written by Meredith Wilson, who is known to Broadway fans as the creator of “The Music Man,” and sung by the music man himself, Robert Preston.

The song was recorded circa 1962, commissioned by President John F. Kennedy for the newly-formed President’s Council On Physical Fitness. A copy was sent to every school in the United States to be played over the intercom so students could do calisthenics to it.

“The Youth Fitness Song” is as snappy as “76 Trombones.” But it is the refrain which drew me from a different room to determine just what this commercial was about.

“Go, you chicken fat, go away! Go, you chicken fat, go!”

According to the JFK Library website, 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.”

Fifty-plus years later, the world would come unglued if the president – even one who was not named Obama – sent this song to an elementary school today. Can’t you hear it? “How dare they imply my child is fat?”

Similarly, a number of advertising critics didn’t like Apple’s commercial. They implied that the commercial was meaningless; that Apple was trying to appeal to adults who heard that song in their youth; that the commercial didn’t work; blah, blah, blah.

I submit that if a commercial is good enough that someone wants to know what it’s for, and takes the trouble to google the music to learn more, it’s pretty darn effective.

Did I mention that I added the snappy little tune to my playlist for running? In this heat, I need all the encouragement I can get.

Go, you chicken fat, go!