He was born in Baltimore, Maryland, the son of John Durang of Lancaster, Pennsylvania, America's first native-born actor. He served in the Pennsylvania militia. It is disputed whether he actually matched Key's poem with the tune of "To Anacreon in Heaven," a popular drinking song, but he is generally recognized as the first person to publicly sing it, at Captain McCauley's tavern in Baltimore in October 1814. He was a member of the Bowery Theatre Company. He died in 1831.