Danny Boy

Danny Boy
"Danny Boy"
Published 1913
Genre Folk
Writer Frederick Weatherly (Lyrics)

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



The words to "Danny Boy" were written by English lawyer and lyricist Frederic Weatherly in 1910. Although the lyrics were originally written for a different tune, Weatherly modified them to fit the "Londonderry Air" in 1913, after his sister-in-law in the U.S. sent him a copy.[2] Ernestine Schumann-Heink made the first recording in 1915. Weatherly gave the song to the vocalist Elsie Griffin, who in turn made it one of the most popular songs in the new century.

Jane Ross of Limavady is credited with collecting the melody, the "Londonderry Air", in the mid-19th century from a local fiddle player.


Although penned by Englishman Weatherly, "Danny Boy" is considered to be an unofficial signature song and anthem, particularly by Irish Americans and Irish Canadians.[3]

"Danny Boy" enjoys popularity as a funeral song but, as it is not liturgical, its suitability for funerals is sometimes contested.[4] In 1928, Weatherly suggested that the second verse would provide a fitting requiem for the actress Ellen Terry.


There are various theories as to the true meaning of "Danny Boy".[5] 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, or simply a publisher's note; Weatherly did, however, acknowledge that "Danny Boy" was sung "all over the world by Sinn Feiners and Ulstermen alike", and noted that the song had "nothing of the rebel song in it, and no note of bloodshed".


(There are a number of variations on these lyrics.)

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
'Tis I'll be here in sunshine or in shadow
Oh Danny boy, oh Danny boy, I love you so.

And if you come, when all the flowers are dying
And I am dead, as dead I well may be
You'll come and find the place where I am lying
And kneel and say an "Ave" there for me.

And I shall hear, tho' 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.

I'll simply sleep in peace until you come to me.

And I shall rest in peace until you come to me.

Oh, Danny Boy, Oh, Danny Boy, I love you so.



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

Year Artist Album (or single) Notes
1939 Glenn Miller Performed as part of the Carnegie Hall concert on October 6 and recorded and released on the RCA Victor label.
1939 Gracie Fields Shipyard Sally (soundtrack) Also performed for Jess Yates's TV show Stars on Sunday in 1978.
1940–1962 Judy Garland Little Nellie Kelly (1940) (soundtrack)

Miss Showbusiness (1955)

Also performed live during concerts at Theatre Royal, Dublin and Palace Theatre, New York shows. Her last recording of "Danny Boy" was in London, for Capitol-label The London Sessions, in 1962.
1944 Art Tatum Fine and Dandy
1945 Bing Crosby Merry Christmas Paired with I'll Be Home for Christmas on the original record.
1950 Al Hibbler "Danny Boy"
1953 Slim Whitman
1958 Elisabeth Schwarzkopf "Danny Boy" Recorded at Abbey Road Studios, London, England.
1958 Sam Cooke Sam Cooke
1959 Sleepy Matsumoto Instrumental saxophone rearrangement.
1959 Conway Twitty Rockabilly version that reached № 10 on the U.S. Pop charts.
1959 Harry Belafonte Recorded live at Carnegie Hall.
1960 Link Wray


Jim Reeves Album Tall Tales and Short Tempers (Slow Version)

"Danny Boy" (Single Version)

1961 Bill Monroe & His Blue Grass Boys Bluegrass Ramble
1962 Maureen O'Hara Maureen O'Hara Sings Her Favourite Irish Songs
1962 Connie Francis Connie Francis Sings Irish Favorites
1963 CHANG Loo (張露) An Evening With Chang Loo Performed in alternate English and Mandarin Chinese language, under title name of Danny Boy/牧童的懷念*, on EMI Columbia label. *Meaning:The Shepherd Boy's Memories
1964 Joe Feeney Performed numerous times on The Lawrence Welk Show.
1964 The Seekers The Seekers (also known as Roving with The Seekers)
1964 Patti LaBelle and the Bluebelles "Danny Boy" Reached № 76 on the Billboard Hot 100.
1965 Johnny Cash Orange Blossom Special Remastered and reissued in 2002.
1965 The Bachelors More Great Song Hits
1967 Ray Price Nashville-sound version that was a top-10 hit on Billboard's Hot Country Singles chart.
1969 Cher Jackson Highway
1969–1999 Tom Jones Las Vegas to London: The Best of Tom Jones Live Performed on the first episode of his weekly television show.
1972 Roy Orbison Memphis
1974 Les Humphries Singers Kansas City Featuring John Lawton (vox).
1975 Joan Baez Diamonds & Rust Recorded as part of a medley, with Stephen Foster's "I Dream of Jeannie".
1976 Elvis Presley From Elvis Presley Boulevard, Memphis, Tennessee Recorded during the Jungle Room Sessions, Graceland, Memphis, TN. The song was one of Elvis's and his father Vernon's favourites and was played at his funeral.
1976 Boots Randolph Boots Randolph.
1978 Sam Sorono Sings Tom Jones' Greatest Hits[7]


The Kelly Family "Danny Boy"

Honest Workers

1980 Hazel O'Connor Sons And Lovers
1985 King's Singers Watching the White Wheat A cappella version.
1987 Tony Bennett Jazz Featuring Stan Getz on tenor sax, Herbie Hancock on piano, Ron Carter on bass, and Elvin Jones on drums.
1988 Brush Shiels Fields of Athenry Blues version.
1989 Kate Smith The Irish Album Reissued in 1989.
1990 Carly Simon My Romance
1991 The Swingle Singers Around the World
1991 My Friend The Chocolate Cake My Friend The Chocolate Cake Chamber pop version.

Reissued in 1995.

1992 Nana Mouskouri Songs of the British Isles
1993 Mary O'Hara Song for Ireland Harp version.
1994 Black 47 Home of the Brave A variation that retains only the melody and one of the original verses.
1996 Don Walser Texas Top Hand

Dare To Dream (compilation)

1996 Joseph Flummerfelt Recorded at the Festival dei Due Mondi and featuring the Westminster Choir.
1996 Eric Clapton "Change the World"
1999 Charlotte Church Voice of an Angel
1999 Diana Krall Tears of Stone Featuring The Chieftains.
1999 Harry Connick Jr Come By Me Big-band version.

Featured in the movie Life Without Dick and Memphis Belle.

1999 The Irish Tenors Irish Tenors
1999 Finbar Wright Opera Concert
  • 2011 - Jackie Evancho in connection with her album Dream With Me
  • 2011 - Girls' Generation sang this song in their "1st Arena Tour in Japan" (May 31 - July 18, 2011, 6 cities 14 performances)
  • 2010 - Charlie Hunter on his album "Public Domain"
  • 2010 - Colm Wilkinson on his album "Broadway And Beyond The Concert Songs"
  • 2010 - Patricia Kelly of The Kelly Family included an acoustic version on her album It Is Essential
  • 2009 - Lee Ji Eun on the original soundtrack of Korean movie '"Paradise"
  • 2009 - Culann's Hounds on their album One for the Road
  • 2008 - Tim Janis on his album "An Enchanted Evening" and performed by Fionnuala Gill
  • 2008 - Celtic Thunder sung a cappella on their album "Act Two"
  • 2008 - The Ten Tenors recorded it on their album "Nostalgica"
  • 2008 - Amy Walker recorded the song in a deeply emotional version posted on YouTube[8]
  • 2007 - Franc D'Ambrosio's album "Franc D'Ambrosio's Hollywood - Songs from the Silver Screen".
  • 2007 - Hayley Westenra's UK album Treasure and the international counterpart Celtic Treasure include her rendition of the song.
  • 2007 - Daniel Johns from Silverchair and Bernard Fanning from Powderfinger recorded a duet version of this song
  • 2007 - Damien Leith, winner of Australian Idol 2006, featured an acoustic version of his homeland's traditional song on his debut album, Where We Land. The version also features Leith on guitar and was originally recorded for a fan. Also recorded a raw version on his latest album Where We Land
  • 2006 - Michael Londra, on his album "CELT" and on Youtube clip
  • 2006 - Great Big Sea,on the concert DVD "Courage & Grit & Patience" Sean McCann sings Danny Boy
  • 2006 - Finbar Wright, on his album "The Essential Finbar Wright" produced by Mike Batt
  • 2006 - Tir na n'Og, on their debut self-titled album
  • 2006 - Till Brönner on his album Oceana
  • 2006 - Thomas Quasthoff on his album A Romantic Songbook
  • 2006 - The Poxy Boggards on Whiskey Business
  • 2006 - Natalie MacMaster, Cape Breton fiddler, on her Yours Truly album with vocals by Michael McDonald
  • 2006 - Great Big Sea recorded it for their live concert DVD Courage & Patience & Grit
  • 2005 - The Choirboys (boyband) recorded the song on their album self-titled album
  • 2005 - Celtic Woman on their self-titled album (initially performed by Méav who also did the same thing for her Celtic Journey solo album and 2007 concert)
  • 2005 - Bryn Terfel on his album titled Bryn Terfel Sings Favourites (2003), reissued as Bryn double CD Special Edition
  • 2004 - Finbar Wright,Ronan Tynan,Anthony Kearns on The Irish Tenors album "Heritage"
  • 2004 - Brian Kennedy, recorded it on his Live in Belfast album
  • 2003 - Nigel Kennedy, recorded it on his Nigel Kennedy's Greatest Hits album with Liam O'Flynn and Osian Ellis
  • 2002 – Johnny Cash, who had recorded another version of the song in 1965, recorded it for American IV: The Man Comes Around, his final album to be released during his lifetime.
  • 2002 - Mireille Mathieu, recorded the French version titled L'enfant De L'Irlande Children of Ireland on her Amoureusement Votre 3 CD box set
  • 2002 - Megan Mullally (Karen of Will and Grace) recorded it on her album Big as a Berry.
  • 2002 - Eva Cassidy's recording of the song was posthumously published on the album Imagine
  • 2002 - Declan Galbraith The opening track on his debut album Declan
  • 2002 - Chloë Agnew on her self-titled album
  • 2002 - Brobdingnagian Bards recorded it for their album Songs of Ireland
  • 2002 - Andy Williams recorded it on his Danny Boy album re-released as Andy Williams-Danny Boy/Wonderful World 2 CD set on the Collectible label
  • 2002 - Ruben Blades recorded on the Grammy-winning album "Mundo".
  • 2001 - Off Kilter, add their Celtic rock influence to it on their album Etched In Stone, and then again on 2004's album The Live Tracks
  • 2000 - Tommy Fleming recorded it on his Contender album
  • 2000 - Judy Collins sang it at her Live at Wolf Trap concert (CD & DVD)
  • Off Kilter Celtic-rock band on their Etched in Stone CD 2001.
  • Sung by Luba Mason and Ruben Blades one the grammy-winning CD Mundo (Sony-Columbia 2002)
  • Sung by Celtic Thunder on their second CD, Celtic Thunder: Act II
  • Wolfe Tones recorded it live on their Wolfe Tones The Troubles two CD set.
  • Willie Nelson on One From the Road (released in 1979; re-released on a compilation Stardust/Honeysuckle Rose/One From The Road)
  • Tir na n'Og, recorded it on their 2006 self-titled debut album
  • Thin Lizzy included it in a medley of Irish tunes as part of the title track on their Black Rose: A Rock Legend album in 1979. Gary Moore and Phil Lynott often played the tune in jamming sessions in their early days. Under the name of Funky Junction, Thin Lizzy had previously recorded an instrumental version, titled Dan, on their Tribute to Deep Purple album in 1972.
  • The St. Olaf Choir on their album A Choral Tapestry
  • The Pogues on the soundtrack for the 1987 film Straight to Hell, with Cait O'Riordan on vocals. Pogues frontman Shane MacGowan also recorded a version of the song with his solo band The Popes which appeared on their Christmas Party E.P.
  • The Gary Urwin Jazz Orchestra recorded it on their album Kindred Spirits
  • Sinéad O'Connor performed the song, adding a third (political) verse, on whistler and piper Davy Spillane's album The Sea of Dreams
  • Sarah Vaughan, recorded it on her album It's A Man's World (original release: Mercury Stereo SR 611220; released as an audio CD on Verve label in April 2002)
  • Ronan Tynan's solo rendition plays while photographs of the 343 members of the New York City Fire Department who perished in the September 11, 2001 attacks are shown in the closing minutes of the documentary film 9/11
  • Quartetto Gelato twice, first on their debut CD Quartetto Gelato and again on Quartetto Gelato Travels the Orient Express
  • Paul Robeson recorded it in Ballad for Americans and Great Songs of Faith, Love and Patriotism. Vanguard Records.
  • Nolan Strong & The Diablos featured on the album Fortune of Hits Vol. 2 on Fortune Records.
  • Maureen Tucker of The Velvet Underground recorded it for her album Dogs Under Stress
  • Kiri Te Kanawa on her folksongs album Come To The Fair.
  • Jackie Wilson recorded two different versions.
  • Frank Patterson, recorded the song for his album Ireland in Song. His rendering is featured in a gangland hit sequence in the movie Miller's Crossing by Joel and Ethan Coen.
  • Deirdre Shannon has a version on her album Deirdre Shannon
  • Daniel Rodriguez "The Spirit of America" 2002 Manhattan Records.

In popular culture

  • Sung by the character of Kim Walker, Deanna Durbin in the film Because of Him (1946).
  • Sung by Frankie Laine in the Blake Edwards film, He Laughed Last (1956).
  • Sung by the Irish-American character Maureen McBain in Sergio Leone's 1968 spaghetti western Once Upon a Time in the West, even though the movie was set before the song was written.
  • Sung by Glenn Hughes in "Can't Stop the Music" (1980); his character sang this for an audition.
  • Sung in the 1989 film Family Business, first at a funeral during the film and then again at the end at the wake of Jessie McMullen (played by Sean Connery).
  • Featured throughout the score of Memphis Belle (1990) and sung by the character Sgt. Clay Busby played by Harry Connick, Jr.
  • Sung in Into the West (1992) by one of the main characters Ossie, played by Ciarán Fitzgerald, to make money for chips.
  • Rockabilly version performed by Brian Setzer of Stray Cats in The Great White Hype (1996) as the anthem of the boxer "Irish" Terry Conklin portrayed by Peter Berg.
  • In Brassed Off (1996) the song was played by The Grimethorpe Colliery Band.
  • Sung by the crowd in the 1997 film The Boxer before the hyped up match where both Catholics and Protestants are present.
  • The song is sung in the beginning of the Titanic Town (1998)
  • Featured in the New Zealand film River Queen (2005) sung in both Māori and English.
  • Sung by the character Morris 'Morrie' Kessler in the 1990 film Goodfellas.
  • Sung several times during the film Daniel's Daughter.
  • Instrumental version played at the restaurant in Return to Me (2000) starring Minnie Driver and David Duchovny.
  • Sung by Juliette Lewis in the Jan Kounen film Blueberry, l'experience secrete (aka Renegade, 2004).
  • Sung by Mark Renton's friends and family after he was spared from being sent to prison in Trainspotting (1996)
  • In his faustian 1994 song "The Man Who Wrote Danny Boy", Joe Jackson implies that the author of "Danny Boy" created an immortal "perfect refrain".
  • Maeve Ryan (Helen Gallagher) performed the song on the final episode of Ryan's Hope
  • In Breaking Bad episode 3-12 "Half Measures", Mike the Cleaner describes an abusive husband whom Mike would regularly have to haul off to jail. During one of these incidents, after the man had beaten his wife into the hospital for the umpteenth time, he begins whistling "Danny Boy" in the back of Mike's police car, driving Mike into such a rage that he pulls off and threatens the man's life on a deserted road.
  • In the Angel Season Three, Episode Seven episode "Offspring", Darla, played by Julie Benz, sings a short segment of the song.
  • Is sung by Carmine Ragusa (Eddie Mekka) on a 1978 episode of Laverne & Shirley. It occurs at the end of Season 3's Episode #15 ("The Slow Child"), during a St. Patrick's Day party.
  • Ray Carling sings this with Shaz Granger in episode 5 of the third series of Ashes to Ashes at a police fundraising gala.
  • Danny Boy, rendered in jazz style, was the theme song for the long running television show The Danny Thomas Show, also known as Make Room For Daddy, from 1953 to 1964.[9]
  • Sung by Jack Rudolph (Steven Weber) many times in the show Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip in the beginning of several of the scenes when he encounters Danny Tripp throughout the series. Rudolph also once sings the lead line as "Matty Boy" when he encounters Danny's partner, Matt Albie.
  • A recurring theme throughout The Adventures of Lano and Woodley, appearing as a jazz song and a campfire song, among others.
  • In the Torchwood episode Random Shoes, Eugene's father sings the song at Eugene's funeral.
  • The song is a favorite of the character Bernard O'Toole, from Tekkaman Blade. The old soldier often sung it to himself, and D-Boy's support mecha, Pegas, ended up recording the song in his memory banks during his first appearance.
  • In the first series of Round the Twist, characters could hear unseen ghosts on clarinet, saxophone and violin perform part of the song in each episode. Eventually, a choral rendition by the entire cast in the series' climax brought forth the ghosts to save the show's lighthouse from being destroyed.
  • In the Futurama episode "A Pharaoh to Remember", Zoidberg sings this song at Bender's fake funeral, in order to "express his sorrow". Bender is angered by this because Zoidberg is singing a song about "some guy named Danny" instead of him.
  • On The Muppet Show Beaker, Animal and The Swedish Chef (try to) sing it. The Chef sings in his usual mock-Swedish gibberish; Animal can only remember the first three words; Beaker performs the melody well, but in his usual "mee-mee-mee" speech.
  • In the fifth season of Never Mind the Quality Feel the Width (1970) Patrick's friends sing Danny Boy to him at his farewell do before his return to Ireland.
  • In the fourth season of "30 Rock" (2009) Danny Baker (played by Cheyenne Jackson) sings several lines of 'Danny Boy' to Jenna Maroney (Jane Krakowski), but is interrupted when she gets a nose bleed. It is also briefly sung in season two's episode "Sandwich Day"
  • In an episode of Johnny Bravo, Johnny plays part of the song on a bagpipe to make the Loch Ness Monster cry.
  • In an episode of "Touched by an Angel" the angel Monica, played by actress Roma Downey, becomes envious of a child prodigy singer. Embittered that God had not actually given her the gift of "the voice of an angel", she drinks half a beer, becomes unruly, and tries to sing the song in Karaoke, executing it so poorly that it causes a fight and her supervising angel has to bail her out of jail.
  • In the Japanese TV comedy Kodai Shoujotai Dogoon V, "Danny Boy" is a source of comfort for Shouta Tsukimiya; in episode 6, he plays it on the harmonica that Doji-chan finds in his keepsake box. In the series finale, Doji-chan attempts to play "Danny Boy" on Shouta's harmonica to bring him back to reality when he becomes possessed by a demon, and the episode ends with Shouta sitting in the altar room of his home playing the song as Doji-chan sits beside him, with Dogu-chan and the other Dogoon Five girls standing around the room.
  • In 'Modern Family', "Regrets Only" (Season 2, Episode 16), Ed O'Neill sings a few lines of 'Danny Boy' in the credit tag, until his stepson, Manny, unplugs the karaoke machine and says, "If you don't stop, this won't be the last time I pull the plug!"
  • In 'The Glee Project', "Sexuality" (Season 1, Episode 7), Damian McGinty sang the song as his performance piece for Last Chance Recital.
  • In Grand Theft Auto IV, the song is sometimes sung by Packie when he is drunk.


  • McCourt, Malachy (30 Mar 2005 (Reprint)). Danny Boy: The Legend of the Beloved Irish Ballad. New American Library. pp. 128. ISBN 0-451-20806-4. 


  1. ^ http://www.standingstones.com/danny3.html#derry
  2. ^ "Fred Weatherly's own description of writing Danny Boy". http://www.standingstones.com/danny3.html#sister. Retrieved 2010-03-09. 
  3. ^ 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.
  4. ^ No byline (2001-08-10), "'Danny Boy' cannot be played during Mass". National Catholic Reporter. 37 (36):11
  5. ^ "The true meaning of Danny Boy". http://www.standingstones.com/danny3.html#true. Retrieved 2010-03-09. 
  6. ^ "Danny Boy Irish Song Lyrics and Music Midi". Danny Boy Song Lyrics. Site. http://www.ireland-information.com/irishmusic/dannyboy.shtml. Retrieved 28 March 2011. 
  7. ^ http://s159.photobucket.com/albums/t138/macaenese5354/Vinyl%20Album/?action=view&current=SamSorono-SingsTomJonesGreatestHits.jpg
  8. ^ http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8Sj8DskmVJo
  9. ^ Classic TV, ISBN 0-7935-4762-8, 1996, published by Hal Leonard Corporation

External links

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