If you’ve been around eldercare for a while, you’ve probably heard the song “Let Me Call You Sweetheart.”

Despite the fact that this song, published in 1910, is older that almost all of the clients we serve, it remains a popular choice, simply because many, many people know the melody and the words. In terms of familiarity, it’s up there with “Home on the Range” (published 1873), America the Beautiful (1895), Oh Susannah (1848), and Take Me Out To The Ballgame (1908 – relatively new!)

The great thing about old, familiar tunes is that we’ve collectively had many years to come up with new, entertaining verses. After all, those old sentimental verses belonged to another generation, and we certainly can’t take ourselves too seriously.

Check out this updated verse to our perennial classic:

Let me call you sweetheart, I’m in love with your automobile
Let me hear you whisper that you’ll pay the gasoline bill
Keep those headlights burning and your hand on the steering wheel
Let me call you sweetheart, I’m in love with your automobile!

Ha! We know what love is. Sometimes it’s sentimental and romantic, and sometimes it’s all about the car.

Here’s another alternate verse:

Let me call you sweetheart, I forgot your name
You can call me darling if you’ve done the same
When you lose your memory it is such a shame
Let me call you sweetheart, I forgot your name!

Now this one I really like, because it puts a lighthearted twist on not remembering someone’s name. This can be an acutely painful problem for people with dementia, especially when they are forgetting the names of those people closest to them. But in a humorous way, this verse reinforces the fact that we all forget names from time to time, which evens the playing field for people with and without memory impairments in a music-making group.

When you share these newer verses with the older adults in your life, you should still sing the original version first, since those are the words to which everyone will default. Then, introduce the new, silly verses, but don’t expect everyone (or anyone!) to know the new words. Instead, invited them to listen to you sing and enjoying getting the joke in real time.

Shout out to music therapist Abi Carlton for sharing these lyrics taught to her by a senior living resident in her area! By the way, I’ve written about this song before, discussing how song lyrics can change over time.

8 Comments

  1. Loren Salzman on January 15, 2020 at 4:12 am

    The version that I learned was “Let me call you, Lizzy, I’am in debt for you
    Let me hear you rattle, like all good Fords do
    Let me see your headlight and your tail light too.
    Let me call you, Lizzy, I’am in debt for you.

    • Rachelle on January 30, 2020 at 3:52 am

      I like that!

      • Anna on June 14, 2020 at 6:35 am

        How about “Don’t you call me sweetheart I don’t love you any more
        Since I caught you necking with the girl next door.
        I can find another that will do me just as well
        Don’t you call me sweetheart you can go to
        Helena had a steamboat the steamboat had a bell
        Helena pulled the wrong cord and the steamboat went to
        Hello operator
        Give me number nine if you can’t find the number then give me back my dime!

        • Rachelle on June 25, 2020 at 7:17 pm

          Ha! I love those songs that play with our expectations like that!

  2. Em on February 17, 2020 at 4:09 am

    My 91 year old mother sings the first version as “Let me call you sweetheart, I’m in love with your machine. Let me hear you whisper you’ve got money for gasoline…” and continues as above. 🙂

    • Rachelle on April 6, 2020 at 6:43 pm

      I had never heard that version before! How fun 🙂

  3. William Pellow on February 18, 2020 at 5:44 pm

    I heard it:
    “Let me call you sweetheart, I’m in love with your limousine.
    Let me hear you whisper that your tank’s full of gasoline.
    Keep your headlights burning and your arm around the wheel.
    Let me call you sweetheart, I’m in love with your automobile.”

    • Rachelle on April 6, 2020 at 6:43 pm

      I like that!

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