“Thank God I’m Old” by Cast of Barnum

“Thank God I’m Old” is one of those songs in which the narrator is lamenting the state of the world. But in this case, thematically she is doing so in a roundabout way. And that is by expressing thankfulness for her old age.

In other words, the world itself is headed down a path of immorality. These days, the only thing people are concerned about is money. Also they speak in public in a way which in times past would have been considered unacceptable. And perhaps relatedly we can say, the songs that come out are no longer “sweet”.

So the vocalist herself “do(es) not want to be young”. Or put differently, she’s quite okay with most likely not bearing witness to how the world will progress. Or phrased differently yet again, with the way things are going she is not even interested in being alive years from now.

Joice Heith

But all of that being said, it should be noted that the lady who originally sang this song was one Joice Heith, who at the time was being paraded by circus master P.T. Barnum as the oldest living woman. 

Indeed he presented her as being a solid 160 years of age, which we would venture to say is way older than any other human being in verifiable history. And whereas that assertion was ultimately proven to be a gimmick, Heith was still pretty aged nonetheless. But ultimately, it isn’t like the lyrics of this song were actually written by her. Rather it was authored by others to fit into this, shall we say fictional character.

"Thank God I'm Old"

“Thank God I’m Old” Facts

Artist(s): Cast of Barnum
Album/EP: “Barnum Soundtrack”

Was “Thank God I’m Old” a single release?

 No.

"Thank God I'm Old"

The “Barnum Soundtrack” Album

Thank God I’m Old was the fourth song of the cast album of the American musical production, Barnum. The concept of Barnum was based on the life of American author, showman, politician and businessman, Phineas Taylor Barnum.

The musical covered the period of Barnum’s life when he was very influential in America and major cities globally. He had performed with his companies worldwide, and between 1835 to 1880, he was at the peak of all his careers. The production combined traditional musical theater and elements from the circus, making it very entertaining and intriguing. The original show ran for over 800 performances and 26 previews at Broadway.

Cy Coleman composed all the songs of the 25-track cast album of Barnum. However, many people performed the pieces in the musical. Cy Coleman drew influence from circus music, and Stewart infused his words with Barnum’s entertaining balderdash. Barnum’s discoveries, Terri White, Leonard Crofoot, and Marianne Tatum) each performed their songs from the album, and there was William C. Witter, who treated Barnum’s life as a circus show.

Thank God I’m Old was in Act I of the musical, was composed by CY Coleman and had lyrics from Michael Stewart. The song was to acknowledge the presence of Joice Heth in Barnum’s life. The real Joice Heth was a slave and the woman who launched the showmanship career of Barnum.

The Real Story of Joice Heth

African American woman Joice Heth was born in 1756. The subject of slavery was evident in her century. Joice was sold in June 1835 to Coley Bartram and R.W. Lindsay.

Lindsay tried convincing his customers, that Joice was one of President George Washington’s childhood nurses. After his attempts to do that failed, he sold her to the American Showman, Phineas Taylor Barnum.

P.T. Barnum began advertising Joice, describing her as a slave of Augustine Washington. The showman exhibited Joice Heth as 161 years old in her prime. At this time, Joice was very old and completely paralyzed but could speak. Barnum’s first exhibit of Joice was on August 11, 1835.

To aid his act and make it believable, Barnum had some teeth of Joice removed and exhibited her looking old, toothless and her entire body wrinkled.

Joice told stories to various tourists about her “time” with President George Washington and sang hymns. The entire façade proved successful for P.T. Barnum as Joice earned his master about $1,500 a week from her exhibitions.

79-year-old Joice Heth died the following year in Bethel, Connecticut. A public display of her autopsy was done and P.T Barnum’s façade was discovered. He denied it initially but admitted to the hoax sometime later.

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