To The Tune Of

''"The Red Flag": nice tune, shame about the words."

So you've got some lyrics. They're wonderful, they're catchy, but you just can't seem to come up with the right music...

Hey, why not just put it to the tune of an older song? One of The Oldest Ones in the Book, as many, many traditional songs and national anthems do this. This can produce a very dissonant effect if the two songs have completely different moods. It's also common in hymnody; most traditional hymnals include the meter signature for each text so it can be easily matched to other tunes; e.g., Common Meter ( — used by Amazing Freaking Grace and many others).

See also Suspiciously Similar Song. Sampled Up is when this version completely eclipses the original. Filk Songs are very frequently set to the tune of existing songs.


Real Life has its own page.

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    Comic Books 
  • Mad Magazine thrived on this trope through The '70s, doing any number of musical parodies of popular properties (including Star Trek and Star Wars), whose musical numbers always included footnotes informing the reader of the appropriate tune.

    Fan Fic 

  • In the 1988 comedy Moon over Parador, the new president changes the national anthem to "Parador, te amo" ("I love you, Parador"), which goes to the tune of "Bésame Mucho". Sammy Davis Jr. sings it.

    Live Action TV 
  • Community episode "Comparative Religion" ends with the group performing an inclusive, secularized rewrite of "Silent Night". (Sensible night, appropriate night / Snow on ground, left and right...)
  • "The Lumberjack Song" of Monty Python's Flying Circus and the older The Goon Show song "Ying Tong Song" both use very similar arrangements to Eddie Morton's "I'm a Member of the Midnight Crew", which was long out of print when the two shows came along. (You might recognize it from it being referenced in Homestuck.)
  • In Doctor Who, the Third Doctor sings a "Venusian lullaby" to a monster (specifically, the Monster of Peladon) that somehow has the same tune as "God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen."
  • Spitting Image's "We've Ruined the World" is an aversion. It's clearly meant to be sung to the tune of "What a Wonderful World", but presumably either the rights weren't available or the holders objected.
  • The Barney franchise is known for adding new lyrics to traditional kids songs, notably the theme song and closing tune "I Love You," sung to Yankee Doodle and This Old Man respectively. Save for some exceptions (mostly the theme and "I Love You"), this is averted in more recent Barney episodes and videos.
  • Elmo's World is another offender, with it's theme tune that's sung to Jingle Bells.
  • Bill Nye also features one at the end of every episode of the show. And they were surprisingly good.
  • The opening theme to NBC's Sunday Night Football was, for several years, done to the tune of "I Hate Myself For Loving You" by Joan Jett. The current version, sung by Carrie Underwood, is a Suspiciously Similar Song.

  • Just about every Australian Football League club theme song is an existing song with rewritten lyrics, as can be seen here. The only exceptions are Fremantle (which includes a small section from "Song of the Volga Boatmen"), Port Adelaide and West Coast. * The Perth Wildcats' anthem is to the tune of the "Hallelujah Chorus".

  • Entire genres of theatre work under this principle. For instance, "ballad operas" — the most famous probably being John Gay's The Beggar's Opera — took popular tunes and rewrote their lyrics to tell a story. (Note, though, that Weill and Brecht's adaptation of The Beggar's Opera, The Threepenny Opera, had original music, except for the "Morning Anthem", which reused one of the 18th-century tunes.) The genres of "burlesque", "extravaganza" and a few others were the same. Most of these genres are completely or near-completely dead, except for British pantomimes (a sort of very silly Christmas show, with crossdressing and audience participation), which appear every year in Britain.
  • Also, if composers borrowing their own work counts, almost all of Händel's operas, cantatas and oratorios borrowed music from himself or even adapted from other composers, in varying amounts.
  • The Cocoanuts has a comic number with the Non-Appearing Title "The Tale of a Shirt" which consists of new lyrics written to the Habañera and Toreador Song from Carmen.


    Western Animation 
  • In-universe example with Arthur: Mary Moo-Cow's theme song is sung to Frere Jacques.
    • Real-Life example: The Actimates D.W. sang a birthday song to the tune of London Bridge on your birthday.
  • Family Guy did this several times. The tune for "The FCC Song" is from Take Me Along, an old Broadway musical. The tune for "A Bag of Weed" is "Me Ol' Bamboo" from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. Whether a given song from the show counts as this trope or straight-up parody mostly depends on how obscure the originals were.
  • One of the cases on Harvey Birdman, Attorney at Law consisted of him prosecuting for a Japanese band called Shoyu Weenienote , who were accusing the Neptunes (yes, from Jabberjaw) of stealing their hit.
  • The Simpsons — "O Whacking Day" is strong Lyrical Dissonance for Americans and Germans familiar with the yuletide hymn "O Christmas Tree"/"O Tannenbaum", less so for Britons who know the bloodthirsty lyrics of the revolutionary hymn of the same tune, "The Red Flag" (to give you a taste, the first two lines are "The People's flag is deepest red/it shrouded oft our martyred dead").
  • The Totally Spies! Theme Tune uses the tune of the rather obscure song "Here We Go" by Moonbaby.
  • "Blow The Man Down" and the opening theme to SpongeBob SquarePants.
  • One of the ending tunes of Camp Candy is sung to the tune of On Top of Ol' Smokey
  • Garfield and Friends had Binky The Clown's birthday song sung to "Freres Jacques".
    • One episode of Justice League had a commercial jingle playing on the Batmobile's radio that used that tune.

Alternative Title(s):

X To The Tune Of Y, God Save The King