Fashion in Song – Lydia the Tattooed Lady (1939)

There are several songs about tattooed women, but one of the best is by Groucho Marx.

Lydia the Tattooed Lady, was written inĀ 1939 by Yip Harburg and Harold Arlen, and was famously performed by Groucho Marx in the 1939 film At the Circus.

Lydia, oh! Lydia, say have you met Lydia
Oh! Lydia, the tattooed lady
She has eyes that folks adore so
And a torso even more so
Lydia, oh! Lydia, that “Encyclopedia”
Oh! Lydia, the Queen of tattoo
On her back is the Battle of Waterloo
Beside it the Wreck of the Hesperus too
And proudly above the waves
The Red, White and Blue
You can learn a lot from Lydia
She can give you a view of the world
In tattoo if you step up and tell her where
For a dime you can see Kankakee or Paree
Or Washington crossing the Delaware
Oh! Lydia, oh! Lydia, say have you met Lydia
Oh! Lydia, the tattooed lady
When her muscles start relaxin’
Up the hill comes Andrew Jackson
Lydia, oh! Lydia, that “Encyclopedia”
Oh! Lydia, the champ of them all
For two bits she will do a Mazurka in Jazz
With a view of Niag’ra that no artist has
And on a clear day you can see Alcatraz
You can learn a lot from Lydia.
La la la La la la La la la La la la
Come along and see Buff’lo Bill with his lasso
Just a little classic by Mendel Picasso
Here is Captain Spaulding exploring the Amazon
And Godiva, but with her pajamas on
La la la La la la La la la La la la
Here is Grover Whalen unveilin’ the Trylon
Over on the west coast we have Treasure Islan’
Here’s Nijinsky a doin’ the Rhumba
Here’s her Social Security numba
La la la La la la La la la La la la
Lydia, oh! Lydia, say have you met Lydia
Oh! Lydia, the champ of them all
She once swept an Admiral clear off his feet
The ships on her hips made his heart skip a beat
And now the old boy’s in command of the fleet

Here’s a great link to images of women getting tattoos, and here is another great tattooed Lady song is by Paddy Roberts:

Fashion in Song – The Tattooed Lady, 1959

About Jonathan

Jonathan Walford is a fashion historian and co-founder of the Fashion History Museum in Cambridge, Ontario. The FHM maintains a collection of nearly 12,000 artifacts dating from the mid 17th century to the present. Jonathan has authored various books and museum catalogues, including The Seductive Shoe, Shoes A-Z, Forties Fashion, 1950s American Fashion, and Sixties Fashion.
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4 Responses to Fashion in Song – Lydia the Tattooed Lady (1939)

  1. John Buckberrough says:

    A great song. If you search YouTube for Dick Cavett’s interview of Groucho, he performs it as well, later in life, but with the same enthusiasm.

  2. Helena Worth says:

    This song is also sung by Virginia Weidler with a charming air of innocence in The Philadelphia Story (1940).

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