A couple of years ago, I happened across the divine Ella Fitzgerald's version of 'Ding Dong The Witch Is Dead' from the film The Wizard of Oz. I decided then that when Margaret Thatcher died, I would share the rather splendid song online as a cheeky celebration. Of course I knew that celebrating the death was something long planned. Yesterday I read that in 1990 poll tax rioters in Trafalgar Square vowed to return there to celebrate her eventual death, which is why the party took place there last night.
I can see the arguments on the various sides of the debate about whether to celebrate her death or not. Personally I go in pretty uncritically for the having fun with it approach. I couldn't say whether that's because I personally find it therapeutic, or a cathartic release of fury, or just because I like a laugh or all those in whatever combination. Incidentally, b3ta.com has had lots of fun with it.
A couple of days into the celebrations, when downloads of Ding Dong The Witch is dead was heading for number one in the charts, I started to see critiques from the left of using the word 'witch' against Thatcher. The claim, with good reason, is that the word historically has been used to condemn uppity women. I actually believe that doesn't apply strongly in this case.
Take exhibit A, which I found when looking up the Ella version of Ding Dong online - someone posted it to refer to Hosni Mubarak two years ago. Mubarak was not a woman, uppity or otherwise. This song has a track record of association with hated public figures.
Exhibit B is the original context of the song. In The Wizard of Oz, there are 'Good Witches' and 'Bad Witches'. Witches are a well known supernatural being in Oz. One in particular was killed by a house, and as is made clear in the song, she was a 'wicked witch'.
Exhibit C is, to me, the most important. The Munchkins celebrated the death not because she was a witch, but because they were vulnerable people who had been freed from a reign of terror. The point of the song is the people celebrating - it's the beginning of the end of Thatcher's evil ideology. We are associating ourselves with the liberation of the oppressed masses, not just associating Thatcher with the Wicked Witch of the East.
Exhibit D - there are just too many songs about Thatcher, so Ding Dong was arguably the most universal simply as a process of elimination. Just a selection can be heard in last week's episodes of a couple of radio programmes I listen to:
Under The Pavement
And finally, here's Barbra Streisand's version, because I love her.