Danny Boy

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"Danny Boy"
WriterFrederick Weatherly (lyrics)
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This article is about the folk song. For other uses, see Danny Boy (disambiguation).
"Danny Boy"
WriterFrederick Weatherly (lyrics)
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A piano arrangement of the tune Londonderry Air.

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"Danny Boy" is a ballad written by English songwriter Frederic Weatherly and usually set to the Irish tune of the "Londonderry Air".[1] It is most closely associated with Irish communities.


Initially written to a tune other than "Londonderry Air", the words to "Danny Boy" were penned by English lawyer and lyricist Frederic Weatherly in Bath, Somerset in 1910. After his Irish-born sister-in-law Margaret (known as Jess) in the United States sent him a copy of "Londonderry Air" in 1913 (an alternative version has her singing the air to him in 1912 with different lyrics), Weatherly modified the lyrics of "Danny Boy" to fit the rhyme and meter of "Londonderry Air".[2][3]

Weatherly gave the song to the vocalist Elsie Griffin, who made it one of the most popular songs in the new century; and, in 1915, Ernestine Schumann-Heink produced the first recording of "Danny Boy".

Jane Ross of Limavady is credited with collecting the melody of "Londonderry Air" in the mid-19th century from a musician she encountered.[4]


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1940 recording by Glenn Miller and His Orchestra on RCA Bluebird, B-10612-B.

There are a number of variations on these lyrics. The following is the original version.

Oh, Danny Boy, the pipes, the pipes are calling
From glen to glen, and down the mountain side.
The summer's gone, and all the roses falling,
'Tis you, 'Tis you must go and I must bide.
But come ye back when summer's in the meadow,
Or when the valley's hushed and white with snow,
For I'll be here in sunshine or in shadow,—
Oh, Danny Boy, oh Danny Boy, I love you so!

But when ye come, and all the flowers are dying,
If I am dead, as dead I well may be,
Ye'll come and find the place where I am lying,
And kneel and say an Ave there for me.
And I shall hear, though soft you tread above me,
And all my grave will warmer, sweeter be,
For you will bend and tell me that you love me,
And I shall sleep in peace until you come to me!
(Oh Danny Boy, Oh Danny boy, I love you so.)


There are various theories as to the true meaning of "Danny Boy".[6] Some listeners have interpreted the song to be a message from a parent to a son going off to war or leaving as part of the Irish diaspora.

The 1918 version of the sheet music included alternative lyrics ("Eily Dear"), with the instructions that "when sung by a man, the words in italic should be used; the song then becomes "Eily Dear", so that "Danny Boy" is only to be sung by a lady". In spite of this, it is unclear whether this was Weatherly's intent.[7]


"Danny Boy" is considered to be an unofficial signature song and anthem, particularly by Irish Americans and Irish Canadians.[8]

The song is popular for funerals; but, as it is not liturgical, its suitability as a funeral song is sometimes contested.[9] In 1928, Weatherly himself suggested that the second verse would provide a fitting requiem for the actress Ellen Terry.

A big band version of the song is used as the theme for The Danny Thomas Show (a.k.a. Make Room For Daddy).

"Danny Boy" was used to represent Northern Ireland at the start of the London 2012 Olympics opening ceremony, sung by a choir of children on the Giant's Causeway.

On November 25, 2014, the Vancouver Canucks used the song in honor of the recently deceased Pat Quinn, who played and worked in many executive capacities for the team.

Notable recordings[edit]

"Danny Boy" has been recorded multiple times by a variety of performers. Several versions performed by notable performers are listed below in chronological order.

1992 (John McDermott)

1939Gracie FieldsShipyard Sally soundtrack
1940Judy GarlandLittle Nellie Kelly soundtrackGarland also sang it live at her concerts in Ireland and Scotland and most famously at her New York Palace Theatre debut in 1951
1940Glenn Miller and His Orchestra#17 on Billboard;[10] Arranged by Glenn Miller and pianist Chummy MacGregor
1945Bing CrosbyMerry Christmaspaired with "I'll Be Home for Christmas" on its original record
1946Deanna DurbinBecause of Him soundtrack
1950Al HibblerDanny Boy#9[11]
1957Sam CookeSam Cooke
1959Conway Twitty#10 (Hot 100) and #18 (R&B)[12] and #1 in Italy.[13][14] His version was banned by the BBC.[15]
1960Jim ReevesTall Tales and Short Tempers
1961Andy WilliamsDanny Boy and Other Songs I Love to Sing#15 on the U.S. adult contemporary chart and #64 on Billboard. The B-side "Fly by Night" also charted
1962Maureen O'HaraMaureen O'Hara Sings Her Favorite Irish SongsCBS Records reissued on CD in 1991 and 2011
1962Connie FrancisConnie Francis Sings Irish Favorites
1962Bill EvansEmpathy
1964Patti LaBelle and the BluebellesDanny Boy#76[16]
1964The SeekersThe Seekers (a.k.a. Roving with The Seekers)Vocal by Judith Durham
1965Johnny CashOrange Blossom Special
1965Al HirtThat Honey Horn Sound
1965Jackie Wilson#94 (Hot 100) and #25 (R&B)[17]
1967Ray Price#60 (Hot 100) and #9 (Country)[18]
1967Sarah VaughanIt’s a Man’s WorldOriginal release: Mercury Stereo SR 611220; released as an audio CD on Verve label in April 2002
1969The BeatlesLet It BeAt the end of One After 909 during the Apple Rooftop Performance on 30 Jan 69, The Beatles sing the first line
1969CherJackson Highway
1969Tom JonesLas Vegas to London: The Best of Tom Jones Live
1972Roy OrbisonMemphisIn Roy's version, the singer is Danny Boy who is recalling when his father (who has since died) said farewell to him
1975Joan BaezDiamonds & RustShe paired the song in a medley with Stephen Foster's "Jeanie with the Light Brown Hair"
1976Elvis PresleyFrom Elvis Presley Boulevard, Memphis, TennesseeThe song was one of Elvis's and his father Vernon's favorites and was played at Elvis' funeral
1979Kelly FamilyThe Kelly Family (debut album)
1979Thin LizzyBlack Rose: A Rock LegendGary Moore and Phil Lynott Thin Lizzy had previously recorded an instrumental version, titled Dan, on their Tribute to Deep Purple album in 1972
1979Willie NelsonOne from the Road
1980The Leprechaun Brothers (Swedish Chef, Beaker and Animal)The Muppet Show Episode 520: Wally BoagA comedic version of the song is featured on The Muppet Show
1987Tony BennettJazzFeaturing Stan Getz on tenor sax, Herbie Hancock on piano, Ron Carter on bass, and Elvin Jones on drums
1990Carly SimonMy Romance
1991Swingle SingersAround the World, Folk Songs (1991) Virgin Classics – aka (Around the World) Folk Music
1994Jerry Lee LewisThe Locust Years...And the Return to the Promised Land[19]
1995Charlie Haden and Hank JonesSteal Away
1996Eric ClaptonChange the World
1996Shane MacGowan and the PopesChristmas Party E.P.
1998Sinéad O'ConnorThe Sea of DreamsSinéad O'Connor performed the song, adding a third political verse, on whistler and piper Davy Spillane’s album The Sea of Dreams
1998Charlotte ChurchVoice of an Angel
1998JacinthaHere's to Ben
1998RiotInishmoreReleased on Japanese edition in instrumental form
1999Harry Connick, Jr.Come by Me
2000Judy CollinsLive at Wolf TrapCD & DVD
2001The Irish TenorsEllis IslandRe-released on the albums The Very Best of The Irish Tenors (2002), Heritage (2004), and Ireland (2010)[20]
2002Declan GalbraithDeclan
2002Megan MullallyBig as a Berry
2002Rubén BladesMundo
2002Johnny CashAmerican IV: The Man Comes Around
2002Eva CassidyImagine
2003Von Trapp ChildrenVolume 1
2004Christy MooreThe Box Set 1964–2004
2004Lena MartellMy Homeland
2004Mormon Tabernacle ChoirAmerica's ChoirThis arrangement was a cappella, and made by the then-associate director Mack Wilberg and later made a second arrangement including orchestra as a bonus track for their 100th anniversary album while he was the chief director
2005Celtic WomanCeltic Woman
2008Celtic ThunderAct Two
2011Girls' Generation2011 Girls' Generation TourFive of the members (Taeyeon, Jessica, Sunny, Tiffany and Seohyun) recorded a studio version and performed the song on tour
2011Jackie EvanchoDream With MeRecorded with Chris Botti as a bonus track for download when purchasing a digital copy from Jackie's website
2012Celtic ThunderVoyage II
2012Vocal PointLead Thou Me On: Hymns and Inspiration
2013John Butler TrioTin Shed TalesJohn Butler solo for this song
2013Renée FlemingGuilty Pleasures
2013The Gothard SistersCompass#11
2013William ControlSkeleton Strings
2014Celtic WomanEmerald: Musical GemsCD & DVD release


  1. ^ Why the name Londonderry Air? Retrieved June 16, 2012.
  2. ^ a b "Fred Weatherly's own description of writing Danny Boy". Retrieved 2010-03-09. 
  3. ^ In Sunshine And In Shadow: The family story of Danny Boy by Anthony Mann (Weatherly's great grandson) ISBN 1300775017
  4. ^ George Petrie: The Ancient Music of Ireland, 1855
  5. ^ "Danny boy; Old Irish air". Historic American Sheet Music. Duke University Libraries. Retrieved 19 December 2013. 
  6. ^ "The true meaning of Danny Boy". Retrieved 2010-03-09. 
  7. ^ McCourt, Malachy (30 Mar 2005). Danny Boy: The Legend of the Beloved Irish Ballad (Reprint ed.). New American Library. p. 128. ISBN 0-451-20806-4. 
  8. ^ Hinnesbusch, Patricia D. "Irish Song Danny Boy Meaning and History of Irish Ballads." Symbol Meaning for Hundreds of Symbols & Symbol Resources. Living Arts Enterprises, LLC, 14 Sept. 2010.
  9. ^ No byline (2001-08-10), "'Danny Boy' cannot be played during Mass". National Catholic Reporter. 37 (36):11
  10. ^ Danny Boy Chart Position Retrieved June 16, 2012.
  11. ^ Danny Boy Chart Position Retrieved June 16, 2012.
  12. ^ Danny Boy Chart Position Retrieved June 16, 2012.
  13. ^ SINGOLI - I NUMERI UNO (1959–2006)
  14. ^ Hit Parade Italia 26 Marzo 1960
  15. ^ Leigh, Spencer (2008). This Record Is Not to Be Broadcast Vol. 2: 50 More Records Banned by the BBC (liner notes). Fantastic Voyage. FVDD 038. 
  16. ^ Danny Boy Chart Position Retrieved June 16, 2012.
  17. ^ Danny Boy Chart Position Retrieved June 16, 2012.
  18. ^ Danny Boy Chart Position Retrieved June 16, 2012
  19. ^ Jerry Lee Lewis, The Locust Years...And the Return to the Promised Land Retrieved June 15, 2012.
  20. ^ "Official Website of The Irish Tenors | Discography". Retrieved 27 October 2012. 

External links[edit]