Roll over Beethoven

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ch01_kelly

Senior Member
spanish
I hope people reading this are old enough to remember the great hit by the Beatles, and by some other groups too, called Roll over Beethoven.
What exactly does it mean "roll over.....(somebody/something)" ?
I've had this doubt for a long time and no dictionary could help me out. Is it a phrasal verb ?
Thank you everybody.

ch01
 
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  • fenixpollo

    moderator
    American English
    Hi, ch01 Kelly, and welcome to the forum!

    I think the song uses a shortened form of the expression "to roll over in his/her grave." It means that the living are doing something that the dead would never approve of.

    If Shakespeare knew that we spoke English the way we do, he would roll over in his grave.
    If my high-school English teacher knew I use the word "ain't", he would roll over in his grave.

    Hope this helps.
     

    James Stephens

    Senior Member
    English, USA
    You will never find a better meaning than that provided by fenixpolo. The next line, "And tell Tchaikovsky the news" furthers the metaphor: and when you roll over in your grave, look over to the grave of another classical composer and give him the news. He will roll over in his grave, too. Delightful!
     

    Outsider

    Senior Member
    Portuguese (Portugal)
    Could it mean that he should roll over (move over?...) to make way for the Beatles?
     

    Kelly B

    Senior Member
    USA English
    Not for the Beatles, but for Chuck Berry. The Beatles performed it several years after he did.
     

    Brioche

    Senior Member
    Australia English
    Outsider said:
    Could it mean that he should roll over (move over?...) to make way for the Beatles?
    I'm so old I remember when the Beatles released the song.

    At the time I interpreted it to mean "Move out of the way, you've had your time, you've been replaced."
     
    Hi, ch01 Kelly, and welcome to the forum!

    I think the song uses a shortened form of the expression "to roll over in his/her grave." It means that the living are doing something that the dead would never approve of.

    If Shakespeare knew that we spoke English the way we do, he would roll over in his grave.
    If my high-school English teacher knew I use the word "ain't", he would roll over in his grave.

    Hope this helps.
    Does it "roll over Beethoven" also mean "wake Beethoven in the grave"?
     
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    Thank you, Spira, I'm just trying to imagine how this refrain would sound in
    my native language. In Bulgarian also there's a similar expression that '' smb
    can roll over in their grave" but I think it would sound unnatural if I sang in
    imperative form " Roll over Beethoven( in his grave) and tell Tchaicovsky
    the news".
     

    Outsider

    Senior Member
    Portuguese (Portugal)
    "Turning in one's grave" also exists in English, but it means something quite different from "rolling over".
     

    woccia

    New Member
    Italian
    Hello, I always suspected that "to roll over something" was a jargon expression from the world of deejays; something regarding either turning a record on the other side or maybe replay it over and over. There's also an album from the rock band KISS titled "Rock and Roll Over" --title which I think contains the same expression. Does anybody have a friend who may be aware of DJs jargon?
     

    PaulQ

    Banned
    UK
    English - England
    Despite many other entries, I don't believe that the saying has anything to do with "rolling over in one's grave".

    It is a phrasal verb that describes the way a submissive dog will roll over onto its back or will roll over and "play dead":

    The OED agrees
    8.

    4.a. intr. To yield without resistance, esp. passively or obsequiously; to give in.
    1919 Oakland (Calif.) Tribune 23 May 20/7 The Beavers were expected to roll over and play dead just as soon as the umpire yelled ‘play ball’.
    1977 Washington Post 20 Jan. a19 The Senate..is in no mood to roll over for him now.
    1990 T. H. Rawls Small Places i. 19 All you have to do is go before the legislature and say, ‘This is good for economic development,’ and they will roll over and give it away.
    2007 Rugby World Mar. 42/4 He knows Italy's forwards will provide a stern test... ‘They certainly won't roll over,’ he says.
     

    barbirolli

    New Member
    English-Northern England
    In rugby the term "rollover" (properly "turnover") is sometimes used where a player with the ball enters a loose scrum (ruck), and has the ball taken off him by an opponent. Perhaps Beethoven just lost the ball in this way.
     

    natkretep

    Moderato con anima (English Only)
    English (Singapore/UK), basic Chinese
    At the time I interpreted it to mean "Move out of the way, you've had your time, you've been replaced."
    That's my understanding too! Perhaps a more infantile interpretation - as I think of the nursery song 'There were ten in the bed, and the little one said, "Roll over." '
     

    suzi br

    Senior Member
    English / England
    I've always thought like natkretep. That they are saying "budge up, make room for the new kids on the block!"

    The other lines around it include "tell Tchaikovsky the news" and "dig these rhythm and blues" which is all about the modern fashions replacing older styles.
     

    pob14

    Senior Member
    American English
    It's never even occurred to me that it could mean anything but "roll over in your grave," but this quote from Wikipedia lends some support to the "roll over and get out of the way" interpretation:

    According to Rolling Stone and Cub Koda of Allmusic, Berry wrote the song in response to his sister Lucy always using the family piano to play classical music when Berry wanted to play popular music.
     

    Myridon

    Senior Member
    English - US
    Hello, I always suspected that "to roll over something" was a jargon expression from the world of deejays; something regarding either turning a record on the other side or maybe replay it over and over. There's also an album from the rock band KISS titled "Rock and Roll Over" --title which I think contains the same expression. Does anybody have a friend who may be aware of DJs jargon?
    There's no such DJ jargon as far as I know (or any of my friends). It could mean "repeat" as in "do it over again," or "roll over" like roll over in bed, or "roll over something" like a steamroller flattens pavement, or several other possibilities. The thing about poetic usage (including album titles) is that it's brevity is often intentional in order to suggest multiple meanings of the same words.
     

    EStjarn

    Senior Member
    Spanish
    Perhaps a more infantile interpretation - as I think of the nursery song 'There were ten in the bed, and the little one said, "Roll over." '
    Incidentally, there is another nursery rhyme reference in the song: "Hey diddle diddle, I am playin' my fiddle."

    I agree with those who understand 'roll over' to mean 'move out of the way'.

    Here's the full lyrics of Roll Over Beethoven at LyricsFreak.com.
     

    srk

    Senior Member
    English - US
    PaulQ said:
    Do you use the expression "to turn over in one's grave"? I would say that it is commoner in BE.

    I think "turn" is more common in AE too. I've always seen it as pob14 has, and I've assigned "roll" to the strange ideas about rhyming in Rock and Roll:

    Roll over Beethoven

    The accent in Beethoven is on the "o" in the lyric, and that helped make me think so.

    Edit: Here's an Ngram comparing "turn" and "roll" in AE.
     
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