“Sixty-Seven, Made in Heaven” & the Musicology of Frivolity
Class Songs penned by undergrad & alumni composers form a long, if decidedly obscure, tradition at Princeton. For an overview of the genre’s place in Princeton musical history, see the handy catalog of Class Song titles briefly analyzed in “The Musicology of Frivolity”. But for an in-depth appreciation, there’s nothing quite like seeing & hearing the complete words & music of a single composition.
A good one to sample is “Sixty-Seven, Made in Heaven”, composed for the Class of 1967. Not only is it Princeton’s most recent Class Song, it’s also one that has never actually been published in any campus songbook or otherwise publicly disseminated.
Here then, for posterity, are its first three verses being sung (with perhaps more gusto than precision) by ’67 classmates & spouses. That performance is followed by a look at the song’s complete six-verse score, along with explanatory notes on how it came to be.
Words & Music: The Original Score (composed 1987)
This genially frivolous composition is the brain-child of Gus Escher ’67. (That’s Gus playing piano in the video.) As the 20th Reunion approached in 1987, he was moved to recapture in song his classmates’ memories of their Princeton experience. Here’s how he structured the composition:
• Intro: The opening stanza about “a college heavenly” (in, of all places, “New Jersee”) struck a note of genteel sentimentality. But the subsequent verses quickly switched the words & music from wistful to whimsical.
• First verse: This stanza launches “with gusto” into a jaunty stride-piano vibe that persists throughout the rest of the song. In it, classmates “remember that September when we first saw Princeton in our prime”. They recall things which new frosh often find impressive — gargoyles, ’cepts, etc.
• Second verse: Conversely, this stanza jocularly bemoans certain other features of campus life in the mid-1960s — behavioral standards set by straight-arrow President Bobby Goheen; Commons cuisine; the Sunday-attendance Chapel Rule enforced by Dean of the Chapel Ernest Gordon; and even the Car Rule that had barred undergrads from keeping vehicles at Princeton since the late 1920s. (“In Loco Parentis” indeed . . . .)
• Third verse: The final stanza pivots from undergrad reminiscence to alumni horn-tooting. Here the “class that has no peer” is deemed to be “made in heaven”. Getting “better every year,” classmates come “back to give it one more cheer.” Those concluding lines shift this student-life reverie into a reunion song.
Notably, reunions would remain the focus a quarter-century later, when the class began to write three additional verses to the song.
The Major Reunion Verses (2012, 2017, 2022, & Beyond)
’67 classmates merrily sang Gus’s anthem from 1987 right on through the next four major reunions. Things then evolved serendipitously in 2012 when the class coined a special slogan for the 45th Reunion — “’67 Is 67” (a wry riff on classmates’ chronological age that year). While creating a “’67 Is 67” tee-shirt logo, reunion Costume Chairman Tim Tulenko somehow started waxing lyrical about this little phrase and wrote a whole new Class Song verse about it.
That 2012 effort eventually grew into a series of three major-reunion verses sung to Gus’s “Sixty Seven, Made in Heaven” melody. Each one received its own separate song-title that denotes the relevant reunion and perpetuates the internal-rhyme scheme used in the original 1987 title. And each one’s final line — “Sixty-Seven, what a year!” — reprises the final line of all three verses in the original 1987 lyrics. Here’s what else the reunion-specific verses do:
• (2012) “Sixty-Seven’s Sixty-Seven”: This 45th Reunion verse facetiously bemoans advancing age while pledging stalwart performance in the P-rade. The penultimate line now looks ahead to the time when the class will join the Old Guard after their 65th Reunion.
• (2017) “Number Fifty Sounds So Nifty”: This 50th Reunion verse extols the noisiness of ’67’s cheers & songs. It also briefly alludes to the railroad theme that ’67 had already been using in the P-rade for a quarter-century. The penultimate line continues the countdown towards Old Guard entry.
• (2022) “Fifty-Fifth Year Trundling Back Here”: The 55th Reunion verse vamps extensively on ’67’s now-perpetual choo-choo theme. Indeed, with a bit of word-play, this stanza even provides the forever-lyrics for ALL future ’67 reunions — even the off-years. By simply sticking the relevant number into the title & first line (e.g., “Fifty-sixth year”), and into the penultimate line (“Still nine more years to go”), the lyrics can be adjusted to signify any given reunion.
• (And Beyond!) That same verse even comes with a different penultimate line to use once the class begins (in 2033) to “March on with the Old Guard!”
And with that final flourish, ’67’s own Class Song cycle is complete. What remains to be clarified is just where it fits in the annals of Princeton music.
Too New for the Princeton Songbook
Unlike some other alumni Class Songs, “Sixty Seven, Made in Heaven” doesn’t appear in the official bible of Princeton music, the Carmina Princetonia. Classmates like to think this is simply because it was composed two decades after the latest issue of the Carmina — the 1969 Centennial Edition — got compiled.
Nonetheless, ’67’s anthem does carry forward a peculiar genre of Princeton music reaching back well into the 19th Century. This whole Class Song phenomenon is informally cataloged in the Princetoniana Museum exhibit on “The Musicology of Frivolity”. That survey identifies distinctive features which such music came to embody. And “Sixty Seven, Made in Heaven” certainly displays key elements of a classic Class Song:
• It is eponymous — with an initial title that flaunts the class numerals, plus a couple of later verses that each cite a major-reunion number.
• Its lyrics salute the University (at times facetiously) while extolling classmate activities (often frivolously). It celebrates student years & alumni decades alike.
• And the perpetual flexibility of its final verse makes it a Class Song for the ages.
Latest but Not the Last?
Yet the Class Song tradition isn’t the only inspiration for the lyrics of “Sixty-Seven, Made in Heaven”. They also draw on other historic strains of Princeton music:
• The references to President Goheen and Dean Gordon echo the gentle ribbing that many PU profs & officials annually received in “The Faculty Song”. That musical litany was a perennial favorite at the senior-class Step Sing from 1895 to at least the 1960s.
• And the reference to “New Jersee” reflects the spelling (and spirit) of a frivolous campus ditty by that name that has appeared in every edition of the Carmina since 1873.
For now, “Sixty-Seven, Made in Heaven” stands as the latest in a long, if meandering, line of traditional Princeton music. (What’s probably the next-most-recent Class Song — 1925’s “Our First Fiftieth” — dates from 1975.) If the University ever decides to issue a fresh edition of the Carmina Princetonia, perhaps it could finally include ’67’s perennially renewable score. And maybe this might even inspire new classes to pen their very own Class Songs.