Kisses Sweeter than Wine (song)
The song was first recorded by The Weavers, who released the song as a Decca single in 1951, as Decca 9-27670. The recording by The Weavers reached #19 on the Billboard chart and #20 on the Cashbox chart in 1951.
In his 1993 book Where Have All the Flowers Gone, Pete Seeger described the long genesis of this song. Apparently the folk musician Lead Belly heard Irish performer Sam Kennedy in Greenwich Village singing the traditional Irish song "Drimmin Down" aka "Drimmen Dow", about a farmer and his dead cow. (The song, in fact, is called "An droimfhionn donn dilís" ("The whitebacked brown faithful cow/calf"). It is of the type categorized as "aisling" (dream) where the country of Ireland is given form. Most times the form is that of a comely young woman but here it is the faithful handsome cow.) Lead Belly adapted the tune for his own farmer/cow song "If it Wasn't for Dicky", which he first recorded in 1937. Lead Belly did not like the lack of rhythm, which had been a part of many free-flowing Irish songs, so he made the piece more rhythmic, playing the chorus with a twelve-string guitar.
Seeger liked Lead Belly's version of the tune, and his chords as well. In 1950, the quartet The Weavers, which Seeger belonged to, had made a hit version of Lead Belly's "Goodnight, Irene", and they were looking for new material. Seeger and Lee Hays wrote new lyrics (Hays wrote all new verses, Seeger re-wrote Lead Belly's chorus), turning "If It Wasn't for Dicky" into a love song. "Kisses Sweeter Than Wine" was published in 1951 and recorded by The Weavers on June 12, 1951 in New York City for Decca Records (catalog number 27670), reaching #19 on the US Hit Parade.
The music was credited to "Joel Newman" and the lyrics to "Paul Campbell", both names being pseudonyms for Howard Richmond, The Weavers' publisher. The Weavers' music publisher was Folkways Publishing, one of the many subsidiaries (aliases) of TRO/The Richmond Organisation, founded by Howard Richmond. Others are Ludlow Music, Folkways Music, Essex, Hollis, Hampstead House, Worldwide Music, Melody Trails, and Cromwell.
In his 1993 book, Seeger wrote: "Now, who should one credit on this song? The Irish, certainly. Sam Kennedy, who taught it to us. Lead Belly, for adding rhythm and blues chords. Me, for two new words for the refrain. Lee, who wrote seven verses. Fred and Ronnie, for paring them down to five. I know the song publisher, The Richmond Organization, cares. I guess folks whom TRO allows to reprint the song, (like Sing Out!, the publisher of this book) care about this too."
The song was a #3 US hit for Jimmie Rodgers in 1957 and also a hit for Frankie Vaughan in the United Kingdom in 1958. The Frankie Vaughan single reached no. 8 on the UK pop singles chart. Peter, Paul and Mary included the song on The Peter, Paul and Mary Album in 1966. It was also covered by Bongwater on their 1991 album The Power of Pussy. In their Peel session version of the song, Bongwater's lead singer, Ann Magnuson, dedicated the song to friends who had died of AIDS.
In 2005, the song was reintroduced to a new generation of listeners by way of being remixed by Canadian electronic artist Frivolous.
- Kisses Sweeter Than Wine. Second Hand Songs.
- Songs from the Year 1951. tsort.info.
- "Show 18 - Blowin' in the Wind: Pop discovers folk music. [Part 1] : UNT Digital Library". Pop Chronicles. Digital.library.unt.edu. 1969-05-18. Retrieved 2010-09-24.
- "Decca Records in the 27500 to 27999 series". 78discography.com. Retrieved 2010-09-24.
- "Howie Richmond copyrighted many songs originally in the public domain but now slightly revised to satisfy Decca and also to reap the profits," Ronald D. Cohen, Rainbow Quest: the Folk Music Revival and American Society (Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press), page 71. By so doing, Richmond could reap both the publishers' share and also the composers share of the song's earnings.
- See Music Publisher's Directory