Yip Harburg, lyricist of The Wizard of Oz film, would have been amused that “Ding Dong! The Witch Is Dead” rose to the top of the charts when Margaret Thatcher died. WS Gilbert and George Bernard Shaw taught Yip Harburg, democratic socialist, sworn challenger of all tyranny against the people, that “humor is an act of courage” and dissent.
Those who sang the song “Ding Dong! The Witch Is Dead” in the film The Wizard of Oz celebrated the end of tyranny at the hands of the Wicked Witch of the East. That celebration was not in L. Frank Baum’s book. Yip’s artistic leadership put it into the film. (Yip also brought the rainbow, also not in the book, into the film.)
Yip said, “Humor is the antidote to tyranny” and, “Show me a place without humor and I’ll show you a disaster area.” Yip believed tyranny is caused by the policies of austerity, imperialism, theocracy and class supremacy, which deny most people human rights and economic freedom from poverty and want. A song — music and lyrics — allows singers and audiences to “feel the thought” of the lyric. “Ding Dong! The Witch Is Dead” is a universal cry against the cruelty of tyrants and a protest against the ban on laughter at that cruelty. For the 99 percent, laughing and joy are required at the funeral of a tyrant. According to Yip, humor gives us hope in hard times.