Danny Boy

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This article is about the folk song. For other uses, see Danny Boy (disambiguation).
"Danny Boy"
Published 1913
Genre Folk
Writer Frederick Weatherly (lyrics)
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.


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

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]


There are various theories as to the true meaning of "Danny Boy".[5] Some 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. [5]

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.[6]


"Danny Boy" is considered to be an unofficial signature song and anthem, particularly by Irish Americans and Irish Canadians.[7]

The song is popular for funerals; but, as it is not liturgical, its suitability as a funeral song is sometimes contested.[8] 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.

Year Artist Release Notes
1939 Gracie Fields Shipyard Sally soundtrack
1940 Judy Garland Little Nellie Kelly soundtrack Garland also sang it live at her concerts in Ireland and Scotland and most famously at her New York Palace Theatre debut in 1951
1940 Glenn Miller and His Orchestra #17 on Billboard;[9] Arranged by Glenn Miller and pianist Chummy MacGregor
1945 Bing Crosby Merry Christmas paired with "I'll Be Home for Christmas" on its original record
1946 Deanna Durbin Because of Him soundtrack
1950 Al Hibbler Danny Boy #9[10]
1957 Sam Cooke Sam Cooke
1959 Conway Twitty #10 (Hot 100) and #18 (R&B)[11] and #1 in Italy.[12][13] His version was banned by the BBC.[14]
1960 Jim Reeves Tall Tales and Short Tempers
1961 Andy Williams Danny 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
1962 Maureen O'Hara Maureen O'Hara Sings Her Favorite Irish Songs CBS Records reissued on CD in 1991 and 2011
1962 Connie Francis Connie Francis Sings Irish Favorites
1962 Bill Evans Empathy
1964 Patti LaBelle and the Bluebelles Danny Boy #76[15]
1964 The Seekers The Seekers (a.k.a. Roving with The Seekers) Vocal by Judith Durham
1964 The Rivieras Let's Have A Party Surf music version, featuring organ by Otto Nuss
1965 Johnny Cash Orange Blossom Special
1965 Al Hirt That Honey Horn Sound
1965 Jackie Wilson #94 (Hot 100) and #25 (R&B)[16]
1967 Ray Price #60 (Hot 100) and #9 (Country)[17]
1967 Sarah Vaughan It’s a Man’s World Original release: Mercury Stereo SR 611220; released as an audio CD on Verve label in April 2002
1969 The Beatles Let It Be At the end of One After 909 during the Apple Rooftop Performance on 30 Jan 69, The Beatles sing the first line
1969 Cher Jackson Highway
1969 Tom Jones Las Vegas to London: The Best of Tom Jones Live
1972 Roy Orbison Memphis In Roy's version, the singer is Danny Boy who is recalling when his father (who has since died) said farewell to him
1975 Joan Baez Diamonds & Rust She paired the song in a medley with Stephen Foster's "Jeanie with the Light Brown Hair"
1976 Elvis Presley From Elvis Presley Boulevard, Memphis, Tennessee The song was one of Elvis's and his father Vernon's favorites and was played at Elvis' funeral
1979 Kelly Family The Kelly Family (debut album)
1979 Thin Lizzy Black Rose: A Rock Legend Gary Moore and Phil Lynott Thin Lizzy had previously recorded an instrumental version, titled Dan, on their Tribute to Deep Purple album in 1972
1979 Willie Nelson One from the Road
1980 The Leprechaun Brothers (Swedish Chef, Beaker and Animal) The Muppet Show Episode 520: Wally Boag A comedic version of the song is featured on The Muppet Show
1987 Tony Bennett Jazz Featuring Stan Getz on tenor sax, Herbie Hancock on piano, Ron Carter on bass, and Elvin Jones on drums
1990 Carly Simon My Romance
1991 Swingle Singers Around the World, Folk Songs (1991) Virgin Classics – aka (Around the World) Folk Music
1992 John McDermott Danny Boy
1994 Jerry Lee Lewis The Locust Years...And the Return to the Promised Land [18]
1995 Charlie Haden and Hank Jones Steal Away
1995 Robson & Jerome Robson & Jerome
1996 Eric Clapton Change the World
1996 Shane MacGowan and the Popes Christmas Party E.P.
1998 Sinéad O'Connor The Sea of Dreams Sinéad O'Connor performed the song, adding a third political verse, on whistler and piper Davy Spillane’s album The Sea of Dreams
1998 Charlotte Church Voice of an Angel
1998 Jacintha Here's to Ben
1998 Riot Inishmore Released on Japanese edition in instrumental form
1999 Harry Connick, Jr. Come by Me
1999 Diana Krall Tears of Stone Album by The Chieftains
2000 Judy Collins Live at Wolf Trap CD & DVD
2001 The Irish Tenors Ellis Island Re-released on the albums The Very Best of The Irish Tenors (2002), Heritage (2004), and Ireland (2010)[19]
2002 Declan Galbraith Declan
2002 Megan Mullally Big as a Berry
2002 Rubén Blades Mundo
2002 Johnny Cash American IV: The Man Comes Around
2002 Eva Cassidy Imagine
2003 Von Trapp Children Volume 1
2004 Christy Moore The Box Set 1964–2004
2004 Lena Martell My Homeland
2004 Mormon Tabernacle Choir America's Choir This 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
2005 Celtic Woman Celtic Woman
2008 Celtic Thunder Act Two
2008 Siobhan Owen Purely Celtic
2009 Hayley Westenra Treasure
2011 Girls' Generation 2011 Girls' Generation Tour Five of the members (Taeyeon, Jessica, Sunny, Tiffany and Seohyun) recorded a studio version and performed the song on tour
2011 Jackie Evancho Dream With Me Recorded with Chris Botti as a bonus track for download when purchasing a digital copy from Jackie's website
2012 Celtic Thunder Voyage II
2012 Vocal Point Lead Thou Me On: Hymns and Inspiration
2013 John Butler Trio Tin Shed Tales John Butler solo for this song
2013 Renée Fleming Guilty Pleasures
2013 The Gothard Sisters Compass #11
2013 William Control Skeleton Strings
2014 Celtic Woman Emerald: Musical Gems CD & DVD release
2015 Damien Leith Songs From Ireland No.11 in Australia
2015 Wayne Devlin "Danny Boy" Digital Release


  1. ^ Why the name Londonderry Air? Retrieved June 16, 2012.
  2. ^ "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. ^ a b "The true meaning of Danny Boy". Retrieved 2010-03-09. 
  6. ^ 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. 
  7. ^ 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.
  8. ^ No byline (2001-08-10), "'Danny Boy' cannot be played during Mass". National Catholic Reporter. 37 (36):11
  9. ^ Danny Boy Chart Position Retrieved June 16, 2012.
  10. ^ Danny Boy Chart Position Retrieved June 16, 2012.
  11. ^ Danny Boy Chart Position Retrieved June 16, 2012.
  12. ^ SINGOLI - I NUMERI UNO (1959–2006)
  13. ^ Hit Parade Italia 26 Marzo 1960
  14. ^ 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. 
  15. ^ Danny Boy Chart Position Retrieved June 16, 2012.
  16. ^ Danny Boy Chart Position Retrieved June 16, 2012.
  17. ^ Danny Boy Chart Position Retrieved June 16, 2012
  18. ^ Jerry Lee Lewis, The Locust Years...And the Return to the Promised Land Retrieved June 15, 2012.
  19. ^ "Official Website of The Irish Tenors | Discography". Retrieved 27 October 2012. 

External links[edit]