Wide Right: The Brilliance of Larry LaPrise
by Jeff Cockey, 4/16/04

I have received many emails over the past few weeks (as I’m sure all of you have) from friends and family about the loss of an icon. So many so, that I feel compelled to address this devastating issue with all of you. He was a man who represented that upon which this great nation was built, who defined kindness, and who oozed originality. Of course I mean Larry LaPrise, the beloved songwriter who put pen to paper and with eloquent prose produced probably the greatest known little ditty around, "The Hokey Pokey."

Here is an example of one of the many emails blanketing my inbox:

With all the sadness and trauma going on in the world at the moment, it is worth reflecting on the death of a very important person which almost went unnoticed last week. Larry LaPrise, the man who wrote "The Hokey Pokey," died peacefully at age 93. The most traumatic part for his family was getting him into his coffin. They put his left leg in. And then the trouble started.

Now to receive this joke on April fools day, as I did, might lead one to believe that this is a light-hearted matter to laugh away and sweep under the rug. Well I am not one to take death lightly. It is tragic that Larry has left us. But let us not look at Larry’s life in a negative light. Yes it is true, he will be missed greatly by all who turn themselves around, but that’s not what he’s all about. Let us focus on his legacy. L.L. was 93 years old (or 83 years old depending upon the version of the joke that was forwarded to you) – time eventually catches up with all of us. This tragic passing caused me to take pause and truly ponder my own contributions to this great land.

What is it that will live on after I pass? What is it that you people will leave behind? I have no answers now. But be that as it may, those of us who did make it have an obligation to build again – to teach to others what we know, and to try with what's left of our lives to find a goodness and a meaning to this life. Now I am not trying to set the bar at an unachievable height but take a look at what LaPrise has left behind. He was not attempting to lasso the moon with his catchy jingle, but you know what . . . he did. And he has put forth a challenge to all of us, to carry on the gift he has given. It is for this reason that come halftime of every Virginia Tech football game, I will proudly stand tall with my fellow Hokies and "shake it all about."

In memory of L.L., I have written a song of my own to honor this great man and innovator of our time. It is to the tune of Simon and Garfunkel’s "The Sound of Silence."

Hello Larry my old friend.
What a great gift that you have penned.
You gave us joy and you gave us song.
We sing it loudly and we sing it strong.

Oh Larry…
Your brilliance we will carry-on
through your song.
The HO-key Pokey.

L.L. we’re sad to see you go.
To shake your hand I did not know.
People say a Hokie is a crock
At least we are not known as a Gamecock.

Oh Larry…
Not sharing your words would have been a sin.
Put your right hand in.
The HO-key Pokey.

Now it is time to say goodbye.
I look around and no dry eyes.
We thank you for your generous contribution.
Our responsibility we will not shun.

Oh Larry…
We are here to spread your grin.
Put your right hand in.
The HO-key Pokey.

You will be missed Larry. "You’re my boy, Blue. You’re my boy."

This column’s movie trivia has a little twist to it. I have already incorporated it into the body of this column, without proper punctuation to show that it is a quote. (So Will Ferrell’s line about the dead KY Jelly fraternity wrestler from the movie Old School is not it.) Good luck and let us all take a moment of silence for L.L.

And as always questions, comments and insults are encouraged. [email protected]


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