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How the ‘purple monkey’ song from a baby toy became a megahit ... for parents

John Legend even did a cover of this silly toy song that has become an inside joke for parents of young kids.

Like any parent, Alexa Cayabyab gets sick of hearing the same toy music over and over (and over) again. But the mom says there's one song that stands out.

“I catch myself or my partner just cleaning or doing dishes and we’ll be, like, humming the song or singing the song and it just gets in your head, and you’re not really mad that it’s in your head, you know?” the 28-year-old from Lodi, California, says. “Sometimes, even when we put our son to sleep, me and my partner will just start singing it to each other. We joke, we’re like, ‘Hey, are you my purple monkey?’”

Her son, Ace, immediately gravitated to the Fisher Price Deluxe Kick & Play Piano Gym — "specifically, the purple monkey song" — and she quickly realized that she liked it, too.

Cayabyab and her family are far from alone in their fandom. The “purple monkey song,” as it’s often referred to online, is technically named “Maybe” on the “Sooo Wiggly” album from Fisher Price (available on Spotify, Apple Music or wherever you listen to non-toy songs). But whatever you call it, the song is a certified hit, and parents are obsessed.

Ace's half birthday party was all about the purple monkey playmat with pieces from the toy serving as decorations.
Ace's half birthday party was all about the purple monkey playmat with pieces from the toy serving as decorations.Courtesy Alexa Cayabyab

Cayabyab's partner has even admitted to listening to the tune without his son around.

“He’ll just listen to it sometimes. He said he’ll be driving to work and (the purple monkey song) will come on and make him miss his baby,” she says. “It’s a good song.”

The family favorite also inspired the theme for Ace's half birthday party in December, with the toy's songs playing on a loop throughout the celebration.

Parents on the internet love to proclaim their obsession with it, joking that it will be their father-daughter wedding dance one day and wondering why it has yet to win a Grammy.

There are blog posts dedicated to tracking down its origins, threads dissecting its lyrics, AI renderings inspired by its characters, memes poking fun at its insane catchiness and so much more. A TikTok search shows more than 10.5 million views on videos dedicated to "purple monkey bubble gum tree" and mentions of the song have increased 191% on Reddit parenting communities in 2023. The humor site McSweeny's joked that the playmat was recalled "for simply having too many bops" and Etsy sells T-shirts referring to its lyrics. John Legend even did a cover of it for his daughter Esti.

All of this for a song on a baby toy?

"I never thought it was that deep," the song's writer tells TODAY.com of his song that's a hit among kids and parents alike.
"I never thought it was that deep," the song's writer tells TODAY.com of his song that's a hit among kids and parents alike.Courtesy Charlie Willis

Well folks, we did it — we found the man behind the purple monkey: Jamie Hert, a sound designer for Fisher Price and the brains behind the lyrics and music for all 11 songs on the Kick & Play, is shocked by the reception to his work.

“I read Amazon reviews, or I’ll read a Reddit (post) ... and I just find it so amazing how mothers, in particular, take this song to heart,” Hert says. "I never thought it was that deep."

He wasn't even sure if his colleagues would like the "Maybe" song at first, because he knew something about it was "a little different." Once he presented it to the team, all of the moms in the room swooned and he knew it was a winner.

"If I can pull at their heartstrings somewhere, I know I've got something," he says.

So what, in his opinion, makes the song so unique?

"It’s not a children’s song, really," he says. "This is just a pop song. And that's the way I approached it. It's just not a typical baby song."

That’s something Cayabyab noticed as well.

“It’s not really too much like a kid song, if that makes sense,” she says. “Like, you could put that on the radio — definitely someone will download it. You know? I would.”

Hert says he was specifically going for a retro '90s vibe — fans on social media have said it sounds like Avril Lavigne or Liz Phair — which may be why it's resonating with millennial parents. Or perhaps it's all about the lyrics, especially the repeating theme of swinging or flying back.

Maybe you could be

A purple monkey in a bubblegum tree and

You could swing in the?breeze

Then?you could swing?back to me

Over Christmas 2022, Charlie Willis got a special homemade gift from his wife, Rachel: a stuffed purple monkey that plays the entire "Maybe" song when pressed.

His reaction to the present was "definitely very emotional."

Charlie's daughter, Penelope, hugs the purple monkey his wife made.
Charlie's daughter, Penelope, hugs the purple monkey his wife made.Courtesy Charlie Willis

"My wife had seen me cry to the song already at that point," Willis, a dad of one in Sellersburg, Indiana, shares with TODAY.com. "And then on top of that, the love of your life goes through such a creative gift idea to create something. So it was just really emotional. I was probably sobbing."

The 31-year-old can't pinpoint exactly when he felt a deeper connection to the song, but he knows the lyrics got to him.

"I think it’s super emotional, just because it’s, like, at that time, your baby needs you for everything. I mean, even to support their own head," he says. "And they’re learning this independence on the tummy time mat that 'I can raise my head now.' And it’s like, 'Oh, my gosh, they’re going to grow up.'"

The toy song makes dad Charlie Willis feel "super emotional."
The toy song makes dad Charlie Willis feel "super emotional."Courtesy Charlie Willis

It's become even more sentimental to Willis as his toddler, Penelope, gets older.

"You’ve got this opportunity to set up a safe base for your child ... 'I want you to go out there and experiment and swing from the trees and fly to the sea, and you can come back to me if it doesn’t work out,'" he says.

Sawyer Landes Biddle, a middle school teacher in Goshen, Indiana, was also struck by the song's words.

"The lyrics really speak to parents of small children," Landes Biddle, 26, tells TODAY.com. "The lyrics are all about going out into the world and that’s what we’re trying to (do): raise children so that they can go out and do things, but then swing back to me or fly back to me. But you hope that they, you know, come back.

Sawyer Landes Biddle sings the song on acoustic guitar for his daughter, Hadley.
Sawyer Landes Biddle sings the song on acoustic guitar for his daughter, Hadley.Courtesy Sawyer Landes Biddle

"I don’t know if it's the new parent hormones or something like that," he adds. "Makes you tear up if you think about it too hard."

He’s taken to strumming his own acoustic version on guitar for his daughter, Hadley — or even without her.

"There’s plenty of times I’m singing it when she’s not around," he shares. "I mean, it’s in my head a lot."

What does his wife, Leah, think about him jamming to a toy song while their toddler is napping?

"She also thinks it's a banger."

As one of the first couples in their friend group to have kids, the Landes Biddles have few parent friends in real life. Like many new parents, they found their village online. And the purple monkey has become a way to connect.

"It’s something that other people, like friends and coworkers and maybe some other family, don’t get. But it’s a big part of your day to hear these songs and play with whatever toy," he shares.

Parenting can be an isolating experience. The purple monkey song reminds moms and dads that they're not alone.

"To see other people talking about the dumb little song that plays in the background during your day, on paternity leave or whatever," Landes Biddle continues, it "feels like they get what you’re going through, if they they also listen to this little song."

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