Saturday, February 28, 2009

Danny Boy

One of the most popular traditional Irish songs is "Danny Boy", written by Fred Weatherly to the tune of "Londonderry Air". "Danny Boy" has a fascinating history! Several musicians and other individuals from two different continents played a part in developing the song into the piece we know today.

The music was first published under the title of "Londonderry Air" by George Petrie in The Ancient Music of Ireland in 1855. The melody had been given to Petrie by Jane Ross of Newton Limavady in Londonderry County. Miss Ross claimed to have heard the tune from a fiddler, presumably blind Jimmy McCurry, and believed it to be "very old". It may have been well over two hundred years old by that time.

"Danny Boy" is one of the more than one hundred different songs that were written to "Londonderry Air". Its lyrics were originally written in 1910 with a different melody by English lawyer/songwriter/radio entertainer Fred Weatherly. Weatherly's sister-in-law, who lived in Colorado, sent him a copy of "Londonderry Air". Irish immigrants had taken this tune with them as they moved to the United States. Weatherly set the lyrics of "Danny Boy", which had been unsuccessful in its first version, to the tune of "Londonderry Air" and the song as we know it emerged.


For more information about the origin of St. Patrick's Day: "The Life of St. Patrick"

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