That silly “Give that chicken fat/Back to the chicken/And don’t be chicken again!” song that's in the new iPhone ad is catchy (AND SO SILLY), but it also happens to boast a fairly interesting story. Take a seat at your desk before the bell rings, because we're about to begin an American history lesson. And yes, there might be a test. The high-tech fitness apps and gadgets in the ad are shiny and new, but the get-your-sweat-on tune is an old jam: “Chicken Fat,” aka “The Youth Fitness Song,” was recorded back in 1961, and President John F. Kennedy had something to do with it.
The song was written by Meredith Willson (the music man behind The Music Man) and originally sung by stage and film star Robert Preston. But! According to Daily Kos, Apple couldn't use the original recording, so the "Chicken Fat" used in the ad is actually the the version sung by singer/actor Bernie Knee.
Willson didn't pen "Chicken Fat" for chickens and giggles: He wrote the song for the US Physical Fitness program of the President’s Council on Physical Fitness. JFK implemented programs to motivate Americans to get active, and “Chicken Fat” was indeed a part of this initiative. Capitol Records sent three million copies of the full-length version of the song (i.e., the six-and-a-half minute version) to schools around the country, and schools played it every morning during calisthenics.
So, if you took phys ed back when Kennedy was president, there’s a solid chance you did hundreds (thousands? Millions? BILLIONS?!?!) of jumping jacks to the very instructional song long before Apple ever threw it in an ad.
And now I suddenly have the urge to do one billion jumping jacks. "Chicken Fat" strikes again!