The artifacts of King Tutenkhamun are about to arrive in the United States for a second tour. Who better to report on this event than Steve Martin, author of perhaps the definitive musical work (links to MP3 file) on the Egyptian ruler. Since the New York Times is notorious for expiring online articles, I’ll copy his entire op-ed piece here:
It is fitting that so many major news organizations have asked me to herald the coming to the United States of the artifacts from King Tut’s tomb. After all, I’m the one who wrote the silly song about him. I stepped over the backs of many Egyptologists who wanted to write this article, but it’s better that they learn their lesson now: silly song writers are powerful and vicious people who will stop at nothing to write an article about subjects they have treated in a silly way.
I know that the song “King Tut” has become a standard and that many people believe it has been around for three-quarters of a century and was probably written by Cole Porter or Irving Berlin. But no, I wrote it in my car while driving – and you probably won’t believe this – I wrote it in less than 15 minutes. The song broke musical ground in that if you look at the sheet music, there are asterisks where the notes should be, because the song has no tune. You will realize this if you hum the song in your head right now. This of course angered many so-called legitimate songwriters who have to make up melodies to go with their lyrics.
It does strike me as ironic that the song has become the standard reference work on the subject of King Tut. Many of the lines in the song are now believed to be fact. In this article I should – as a serious scholar – set the record straight:
King Tut was not “born in Arizona.”
He did not live in a “condo made of stone-a.”
King Tut did not “do the monkey,” nor did he “move to Babylonia.”
King Tut was not a honky.
He was not “buried in his jammies.”
The song does, however, make a valid assertion that scholars still regard as a breakthrough: King Tut was, as explained in the song, “an Egyptian.”
When I got a call from a high-level Egyptian museum official saying that his country was upset that my song “King Tut” was not being played worldwide as much as it should be, and asking me if I would endorse an American tour of the artifacts in order to increase awareness of my song, I humbly agreed. The gentleman said, “If we thought that our exhibit would, in some way, introduce your song to even one more person, then the whole enterprise would be worth it.” I am proud to be of service.
Steve Martin is hilarious… 🙂