This post is part of a countdown series on songs that have stuck in my head and are part of my iTunes "hit parade" of most-played tracks. See all the posts here.
Given the subject matter and tragic coda to this recording, this might be a better song for Halloween. But there is a sick-comic aspect to hearing it so close to the holiday devoted to a savior's birth. "When That Man Is Dead and Gone," written by Irving Berlin (yes, as in "White Christmas"), is heartfelt wish for someone's death.
There are earlier songs that mine the "drop dead" vein in a joking way (see Louis Armstrong, "I'll Be Glad When You're Dead, You Rascal You"), but Berlin's song caught my attention for its directness and sincerity. And who can disagree with the sentiment when the song is about Adolf Hitler?
The most famous version is by British crooner Al Bowlly, who was sort of the UK's version of Bing Crosby. Two weeks after he made the recording, he was killed by a parachute mine in his own home during a German bombing of London. He never got to sing these lyrics as fact:
What a day to wake up on
What a way to greet the dawn
Some fine day the news’ll flash
Satan with a small moustache
Is asleep beneath the lawn
When that man is dead and gone
There's a version on YouTube that simply sets the song against footage of Hitler with cheering crowds. It's a unique juxtaposition: chilling images and a jaunty soundtrack. I can't decide how effective it is. It depends on whether you feel that Hitler is trivialized and diminished by (what I think is) a ukelele -- or that the music and images just go right past each other. I've embedded instead a still-photo version: