Words: Johnny Burke; Music: Jimmy Van Heusen (1944)

Lyrics

Would you like to swing on a star
Carry moonbeams home in a jar
And be better off than you are
Or would you rather be a mule?

A mule is an animal with long funny ears
Kicks up at anything he hears
His back is brawny and his brain is weak
He’s just plain stupid with a stubborn streak
And by the way, if you hate to go to school
You may grow up to be a mule

Or would you like to swing on a star
Carry moonbeams home in a jar
And be better off than you are
Or would you rather be a pig?

A pig is an animal with dirt on his face
His shoes are a terrible disgrace
He ain’t got no manners when he eats his food
He’s fat and lazy and extremely rude
But if you don’t care a feather or a fig
You may grow up to be a pig

Or would you like to swing on a star
Carry moonbeams home in a jar
And be better off than you are
Or would you rather be a fish?

A fish won’t do anything, but swim in a brook
He can’t write his name or read a book
And to fool the people is his only thought
And though he’s slippery, he still gets caught
But then if that sort of life is what you wish
You may grow up to be a fish

And all the monkeys aren’t in a zoo
Every day you meet quite a few
So you see it’s all up to you
You can be better than you are
You could be swingin’ on a star

Background

“Swinging on a Star” is an American pop standard that was sung by Bing Crosby in the 1944 film Going My Way, winning an Academy Award for Best Original Song that year, and has been recorded by numerous artists since then.

Song writer Jimmy Van Heusen was at Crosby’s house one evening for dinner, and to discuss a song for the movie Going My Way. During the meal one of the children began complaining about how he didn’t want to go to school the next day. The singer turned to his son and said to him, “If you don’t go to school, you might grow up to be a mule. Do you wanna do that?”

Van Heusen thought this clever rebuke would make a good song for the movie. He pictured Crosby, who played a priest, talking to a group of children acting much the same way as his own child had acted that night. Van Heusen took the idea to his partner lyricist Johnny Burke, who approved. They wrote the song.

Performances

Here is Bing Crosby and a boy’s chorus singing the song in Going My Way:

And here’s a fantastic version by Frank Sinatra, arranged and conducted by Nelson Riddle: