The Man Who Had to Sing About "The Man Who Had to Sing"

When I first got the "series of tubes" (Ted Stevens, bless your technological acumen!) hooked up in April of 2005, just after I moved to Anaheim, before I even thought of starting up a blog, or even multiple blogs, I had a mission. Inspired by a small, obscure animated short that I had not seen for over a quarter century, but whose presence in my brain had stuck with me that entire time, I made my way to IMDB to start researching the film's whereabouts. Not only did the film appear to not have been released on DVD or VHS, at least in the English-speaking world as presented on the "BUY" section of the website, but the entry for this film didn't even have the minimum number of votes required (a mere 5) to qualify to have a rating on the site (it still doesn't, which seems to speak to its current obscurity). And because this lonely little film titled The Man Who Had to Sing, which seemed to me still like the scraggly, unloved Christmas tree in the Charlie Brown special, didn't have any user comments either, I felt compelled to leave this brief note regarding my past involvement with the film:
"I remember seeing this film back in the late 70's on PBS when I was a teenager, and just beginning to turn into an animation nut. The show was "The International Festival of Animation", hosted by Jean Marsh, and while there were a great many wonderful cartoons presented on the series, this is the one that stuck with my brother and I. The lead character's endlessly repeated singsong refrain of "Yeah-yeah, yeah-yeah-yeah!" super-glued itself to my brain, and I still sing it all the time over 25 years later, though I have not seen hide nor hair of the film since that show went off the air. Unfortunately, I did not own a VCR until 1980, and never thought to tape it when I did get one. Hopefully, Spike and Mike or some similar group will collect some of these wonderful old films and let them find a new audience. Perhaps it wouldn't hold up in a fresher viewing, but it was a very sad, quirky but poignantly beautiful gem, at least, as I recall it.."

That was it. I titled the comment, "Sometimes You Just Have to Let It Out...", but to this day, I am unsure of whether I was merely referring to the character in the film or to myself, too. I also left a couple of other comments following this one for other likewise obscure and fondly remembered trifles of my youth, but my real hope with this particular one was to locate others who not only shared my love for this film, but to also track down a copy, by any means necessary.

Time passed, and I never received a reply. And more time passed... nothing. It seemed, apart from my brothers, that I was alone in my "Yeah-yeah-yeahing". And then, Wednesday night, I received an email from someone who was conducting a Google search for The Man Who Had to Sing. Nearly two years later, they ended up on my comment at IMDB, and they were then nice enough to contact me. The email as follows...

Hello - I went googling for this Yugoslavian Animation short tonight and found your comment on IMDB. I had such a similar experience that I had to write. I also saw it with my brother who was a good deal older than me (now deceased). He used to watch the same PBS show late at night and I would get home from a night out and find him sitting there with a smile on his face watching this show. I had never seen stuff like this before and I found it really interesting, especially the Slavic stuff. And one night I saw "The Man Who Had To Sing" and we laughed ourselves silly... I also could not get that song out of my head and now years later at 53 I still remember the whacky, oblivious way that the guy went through life singing that same refrain over and over. Like you said, "... glued to my brain". I wonder... did you ever get to see it again? Well, thanks for listening. Just had to write. "Yeah-yeah, yeah-yeah-yeah!"


I was elated that there was someone besides my brother and myself that had not just seen this in their youth, but had also become inflicted with the "yeah-yeah" madness. But it also served to remind me that my quest was far from over, and that I needed to start anew my search for this film. Unfortunately, Google offers little in the way of an immediate solution, but it did list a few potential bright spots:

  • A website for the Archdiocese of Portland in Oregon lists the film in its rentable video library thusly:

    THE MAN WHO HAD TO SING
    V224001
    Media Type: Audio (Cassette(s))
    Audience Level: JHA
    A little guy (Charlie Brown type) goes through life with a song to sing ("Ya , ya, ya-ya") that nobody wants to hear. As a child he gets deserted by his parents, beaten up by other children, kicked out of school, and tagged
    Subjects: Growth & Development; Faith Enrichment; Self-Esteem; Life
    Running Time:10
    Mass Media Ministries
  • A website for the Ruth Dudley Resource Center, which also seems to be a religious library, offers this description:

    The Man Who Had to Sing
    A hilarious portrayal of the life of a luckless Charlie Brown-type, a real loser who had only one thing to offer -- a song for which the world had no need. 10 minutes. 1989. JH - A.
  • And best of all, the San Bernardino Valley College website offers up a list of their library films (which consists of the usual mix of public domain titles, industrial films and obscure art flicks). It gives more of the real deal on the film:

    The Man Who Had to Sing
    Year: 1971Type: FilmsColorization: colorLength: 10 min.
    This film is an animated cradle to grave fable - funny, quirky, and sad. A little guy goes through life with a song to sing that nobody wants to hear. As a child he gets deserted by his parents, beaten up by other children, kicked out of school. As a man he has a hard time with the army, with religion, with a wife who soon takes her leave of him, with psychiatrists who declare him hopeless, and with society in general. But he hangs in there, until an outraged public silences him in his grave. Or, is he silenced? The caricature becomes a clue to many problems of human interrelations and individual integrity.

I find it amusing that the Archdiocese's subject description notes "faith enhancement", when I believe that "The Man" finds just as little comfort in church as he does in the rest of his life, and is summarily dismissed from the environs when he takes up his Tourette's-like burst of inappropriately loud and off-key singing. Whatever people take from the film (and it has been so long since I have seen it, so that practically anything could be within the film and I would have forgotten much of it), I am glad that it is around in some form.

I can't rent from the Archdiocese of Portland in Oregon because they limit their rentals to the borders of the state, unless you give them a good reason which they will study "case by case". I don't know whether my lack of religion will either hurt or help my case. This same problem might apply with the Ruth Dudley catalog. And I am pretty sure that one must be a student of the San Bernardino Valley College to rent from it, and even if I could, it would be hard to convince Jen that we need to make the trip to S.B. just to rent a 10-minute long obscure Yugoslavian cartoon with a guy who just blurts out nonsense lyrics at every given opportunity. She would say that she already has someone like that around for real. Why would she need a cartoon for that?

Yeah-yeah, yeah-yeah-yeah...

The Man Who Had to Sing [Covjek koji je morao pjevati] (1970)
Directed by Milan Blazekovic
Cinema 4 Rating (Distantly Remembering How Much I Loved It): 8

Comments

Mark Otis said…
Thank you thank you. At least once a month this goes through my head. Now I know where we are sending Aerin to college...

M'Otis
Anonymous said…
Interesting. I have not seen this film, but I work in a library and am now working on getting a 16mm print of The Man Who Had To Sing cataloged. It sounds very interesting.
Richard Marcum
marcum_rg@mercer.edu
dexter riley said…
I wrote to Zagreb film a month or two ago, asking about the film, and got this response:

Hello Mr. Beaty,
Regarding your request we could send to you copy of "The Man Who Had To Sing", The price of DVD is 10 euro + shipping (for USA shipping is cca. 15 -20 euro).
You can make the payment on our account:

HR41 2340 0091 1102 92725

PRIVREDNA BANKA ZAGREB D.D.

10 000 Zagreb, Rackoga 6, Croatia

Swift: PBZGHR2X

Account. no: 70010-051524

As soon as we get the confirmation of the payment as soon we'll send to you the DVD.

Please don't forget to write your address or if you have your courrier acount No.

Regarding contacting Mr. Blazekovic, as he doesn't have e-mail address it will not be so easy, we would like to inform you that your compliment was forwarded to him and he appreciate it a lot.

Warm regards,
Ivana Zoric
International sales

Zagreb film
Vlaska 70
10000 Zagreb
Croatia
tel: +385 1 4613 689
fax: +385 1 4557 068
www.zagrebfilm.hr
zagrebfilm@zagrebfilm.hr
Ivana Zoric

=====================

I have no idea how to get 20 euro to an account in Croatia, but there you are.
Best wishes,
Ed Beaty
P.S. Yeah, yeah, yeah, Yeah-yeah!
Anonymous said…
I saw this film at a United Methodist youth camp in Michigan around 1973. My fellow campers and I were baffled by it, and the irritating song has been stuck in my head until this day. A few months ago I sang it (nasally, the way I remember the character in the film did) to my wife, and she burst out laughing. She often begs me to "sing it again," and laughs her head off. She asked me to look on the internet to see if the film actually existed (she couldn't believe that I had remembered it accurately), and that's how I stumbled upon your IMDB comment and this blog. I'd be interested in seeing it again, just to see if I still have the tune correct. Thanks for tracking this down! It's surprising how little there is out there about this animated short.
It seems to be a film about tolerance, or, rather, intolerance, since the main character is harassed for singing his song, and, eventually, killed by an angry mob. (Many in the mob are carrying Christian crosses, so it isn't particularly pro-established religion.) Once he's dead and buried, we hear a short snippet of his song emanating from his coffin, indicating that even death could not silence him. Because of this I suspect he may represent a kind of Christ figure.
Anonymous said…
Brothers, I feel your Pain. I Too have been haunted by this little dittie! Now you can rest in peace as THE MAN did in the cartoon.

I found a link to The Man Who Had To Sing.

http://homepage.mac.com/gpence/iMovieTheater2.html
If there is a problem, contact me at storchvid@yahoo.com

Greg
linguafile said…
My sister and I also can never forget "yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah-yeah". Something else in the film that made a big impression on us as children is the character's conflict with his teacher. She tries futilely, in a funny falsetto voice, to make him sing the scale "do-re-mi-fa-sol-la-si-do", but he just HAS to sing "yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah-yeah". It's a great metaphor for the regimented way that institutions can sometimes require us to behave, limiting imagination and expression.

It's wonderful to see that this little film made an impression on others as well after only one viewing so many years ago!
Paul said…
Thank you thank you Greg! My brother and I used to sing this obsessively. I'm sending him a link. Thanks for this blog too!
Jeff said…
We were shown this film in school as part of a discussion on acceptance in society. I've never forgot the film, and would love to get it on DVD.
Anonymous said…
I contacted the people that sell the video and I got the DVD. It was everything I remembered it to be and more. My brother and I still tell out kids about the tune and that song is very addictive.

To this day I have yet to see it on youtube but maybe one day....
-Ed
Anonymous said…
Our prayers have been answered....it is now on Youtube!! I too have been waiting and watching and someone finally came through!!! Great memory from my teen years!
Anonymous said…
Here it is on YouTube:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k_ArU_ZK-ZE

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