I had thought that "Whistle While You Work" came from the 1946 Disney movie Song of the South, but it was actually part of the 1937 animated Disney movie Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. The song shows Snow White and a bunch of cute animals happily whistling while cleaning house.
This song even generated an anti-Nazi parody:
Whistle while you work.
Hitler was a jerk.
Mussolini kicked him in the peenie.
Now it doesn't work.
Snow White is the source of another popular work song. "Hi-ho, hi-ho, it's off to work I go" is sung by the seven dwarfs.
When I was a kid, we sang this parody:
It's off to school I go.
I heard the bell
And ran like hell.
In 1957, The Bridge on the River Kwai, showed Allied POWs whistling the "Colonel Bogey March" to maintain morale and dignity while building a bridge for their Japanese captors under horrid conditions. That song was written in 1914, but it, too, was the source of an anti-Nazi parody in the Second World War.
Göring has only got one ball
Hitler's so very small
Himmler's so very similar
And Goebbels [mispronounced "go-balls"] has no balls at all
Slaves may have sung since ancient times to mitigate their misery. In the 1974 Mel Brooks comedy Blazing Saddles, Lyle (played by Burton Gilliam) taunted the mostly black railroad workers: "When you was slaves, you sang like birds. Come on! Let's hear a good, old nigger work song!"
Around 1980, I was writing about 20 hours a day to complete a book with a very tight deadline. I discovered an NPR radio show hosted by Ed Bradley of 60 Minutes. Ed played great jazz after midnight, and the music kept me awake enough to keep writing.
Although I enjoy many kinds of music, and my home is filled with radios, plus recordings and the equipment to play them, I somehow got out of the habit of playing music while I write. I recently rearranged my home office, and rediscovered the great Tivoli radio that had been on my desk for over a decade. While I'm in the car, I love talk radio, but when I'm writing I find that voiceless music is less distracting, very comforting, and sometimes even stimulating.
So, turn on some music—or whistle while you work. It was good for Snow White and the prisoners.