A plaque remaining from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem.

Above, a 1934 plaque from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem. Discarded as trash in 2006.

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Entry from October 03, 2010
“Everybody wants to go to heaven, but nobody wants to die”

"Everybody wants to go to heaven, but nobody wants to die” (or, “Everyone wants to go to heaven, but no one wants to die") has been a popular sentiment in country songs sung by Loretta Lynn and Kenny Chesney (”...but nobody wants to go now"). Timmie Rogers popularized the saying in 1950-1951 with his song “Ev’rybody wants to go to Heaven (But Nobody Wants to Die).” Tom Delaney appears to have written a blues song (by at least 1948) titled “Everybody Wants to Go to Heaven but Nobody Wants to Die.”

The saying is frequently attributed to the state of Texas, but there is no obvious Texas source. It’s possible that some people believe that a cowboy used the line in a filmed western. There was an old vaudeville gag—“the average man wants to go to heaven when he dies, but a Texan would prefer to ascend to Dallas”—but this gag is not similar to the saying.


24 April 1947, Hagerstown (MD) Daily Mail, “Boyle’s Column” by Hal Boyle, pg. 20, col. 6:
HOUSTON, Texas, April 24 (AP). There is an old vaudeville gag that the average man wants to go to heaven when he dies, but a Texan would prefer to ascend to Dallas.

Google News Archive
16 October 1948, Afro-American, “‘Certain Feeling’ Needed to Put Blues in Song, Says Tom Delaney” by E. B. Rea, pg. 18, col. 3:
“New York Glide,” “Walk That Broad,” “Leaving Just to Ease My Worried Mind,” “Keep Your Business to Yourself,” and “Everybody Wants to Go to Heaven but Nobody Wants to Die,” parody on a sermon.

Google News Archive
9 December 1950, Afro-American, pg. 8, col. 6:
Rogers to Emcee
Gold Coast Show

NEW YORK—Timmie Rogers, just about the hottest comic in show business at the present time, has been signed to emcee the next show at Miami Beach’s Celebrity Club, on the famed Gold Coast resort, beginning Dec. 15.
(...)
Incidentally, his new tune “Everybody Wants To Go To Heaven, But Nobody Want’s (sic) to Die” looks like a hot disc and will probably rival his big hit tune “Fla-Ga-La-Pa.”

OCLC WorldCat record
Ev’rybody wants to go to Heaven (But Nobody Wants to Die)
Author: Timmie Rogers; Al Fields; Tom Delaney
Publisher: ©1951.
Edition/Format: Musical score : English

4 November 1951, Dallas (TX) Morning News, “Jazz Variety Show Makes Appeal to All Age Groups” by Fairfax Nisbet, pt. 1, pg. 10:
Timmie Rogers, who writes songs such as “Everybody Wants to Go to Heaven, But Nobody Wants to Die,” which he sung, is a good natural comic with a song and monologue patter that is full of fresh material.

21 October 1954, Vida latina, “This Crazy World” by Ram C. Vargas, pg. 26:
Everybody wants to go to heaven but no one wants to die—yet the number of deaths every year is amazing.

Google Books
Smoking, Life and Health:
How and why to stop smoking

By George Madis
Lancaster, TX, American Book Pub. Co.
1964
Pg. 112:
“Everyone wants to go to heaven, but nobody wants to die.”

Google News Archive
17 April 1966, Sarasota (FL) Herald-Tribune, Records, pg. 14C, col. 2:
..."Everyone Wants to Go to Heaven but Nobody Wants to Die” by Timmie Rogers (Epic 5-9899)...

OCLC WorldCat record
Tout le monde veut aller au ciel mais personne ne veut mourir
Author: Jean Kluger; Cy Coben; Georges Aber, parolier.
Publisher: [Paris] : Meridian, [1966]
Edition/Format: Musical score
Notes: Daté d’après la déclaration de dépôt légal.
Other Titles: Ev’rybody wants to go to Heaven but nobody wants to die
Responsibility: musique de Jean Kluger ; paroles de Cy Coben ; trad. de Georges Aber.

OCLC WorldCat record
Everybody Wants to go to Heaven (But Nobody Wants To Die) = Tout le monde vent aller au ciel.
Author: Jean Kluger
Publisher: ©1968.
Edition/Format: Musical score : English

Google Books
School for Soldiers:
West Point and the profession of arms

By Joseph J. Ellis and Robert H. Moore
New York, NY: Oxford University Press
1974
Pg. 199:
Everyone wants to go to Heaven. Nobody wants to die.

OCLC WorldCat record
Everyone wants to go to heaven, but nobody wants to die.
Author: DA Nimer
Edition/Format: Article : English
Publication: Healthcare forum, 1986 Jan-Feb; 29(1): 74-5
Database: From MEDLINE®/PubMed®, a database of the U.S. National Library of Medicine

Google Books
Never try to teach a pig to sing:
Still more urban folklore from the paperwork empire

By Alan Dundes and Carl R. Pagter
Detroit, MI: Wayne State University Press
1991
Pg. 68 (T-SHIRT QUOTES):
“Everyone wants to go to heaven, but no one wants to die.”

Google Books
Public Schools That Work:
Creating community

Edited by Gregory A. Smith
New York, NY: Routledge
1993
Pg. 83:
As another saying goes, “Everyone wants to go to heaven, but no one wants to die” (Memphis Slim, as quoted in Glickman, 1990).

Google Books
Congressional Record—House
October 5, 1999
Pg. 23806:
Mr. GREEN of Wisconsin: Mr. Speaker, the late heavyweight champion of the world, Joe Louis, once said, “Everyone wants to go to heave but nobody wants to die.”

OCLC WorldCat record
Everyone wants to go to heaven, but—
Author: C McNair Wilson
Publisher: Berkeley, Calif. : PageMill Press, ©2000.
Edition/Format: Book : English

Google Books
Rich Dad, Poor Dad:
What the rich teach their kids about money—that the poor and middle class do not!

By Robert T. Kiyosaki and Sharon L. Lechter
New York, NY: Warner Business Books
2000
Pg. 149:
Another saying in Texas is, “Everyone wants to go to Heaven, but no one wants to die.”

Google Books
The Tao of Poker:
285 Rules to Transform Your Game and Your Life

By Larry W. Phillips
Avon, MA: Adams Media Corp.
2003
Pg. 27:
“Everyone wants to go to heaven, but no one wants to die. “ — Anonymous

OCLC WorldCat record
Everybody wants to go to heaven but nobody wants to die, or, (the eschatology of bluegrass)
Author: David Crowder; Mike Hogan
Publisher: Orlando, FL : Relevant Books, ©2006.
Edition/Format: Book : English

The Post Newspapers Zambia
Exams are Easy, How to sharpen your memory Part II
By Rozious Siatwambo on Saturday 12 June 2010, 03:10:00 CAT
(...)
I told the parent the following saying in Texas that, “Everyone wants to go to Heaven, but no one wants to die.”

Posted by Barry Popik
Texas (Lone Star State Dictionary) • (1) Comments • Sunday, October 03, 2010 • Permalink


Barry, Nice phrase to explore. Here is a variant in 1867. The wording is somewhat different but the idea is similar and might be of interest:

1867 December, Scott’s Monthly Magazine, Salmagundi, Volume 4, Number 6, J.J. Toon.

There are some inconsistencies in this world that I don’t exactly understand. Everybody is anxious to go to heaven, but nobody is in a hurry about it.

http://books.google.com/books?id=kHdHAAAAYAAJ&

Posted by Garson O'Toole  on  10/04  at  02:29 AM

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