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]


  • 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.
  • On November 25, 2014, the Vancouver Canucks used the song in honour 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 (1939) Gracie Fields Shipyard Sally soundtrack
1940 (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 (1940) Glenn Miller and His Orchestra Single only #17 on Billboard;[9] Arranged by Glenn Miller and pianist Chummy MacGregor
1945 (1945) Bing Crosby Merry Christmas Paired with "I'll Be Home for Christmas" on its original single
1950 (1950) Al Hibbler Single only #9 on the R&B chart[10]
1955 (1955) Slim Whitman Single only
1959 (1959) Conway Twitty Saturday Night #10 on Hot 100 and #18 on R&B charts[11] and #1 in Italy[12][13] (banned by the BBC)[14]
1961 (1961) Andy Williams Danny Boy and Other Songs I Love to Sing #15 on the U.S. adult contemporary and #64 on the Hot 100 charts[15]
1964 (1964) Patti LaBelle and the Bluebelles Sweethearts of the Apollo #76 on Hot 100[16]
1965 Johnny Cash Orange Blossom Special
1965 (1965) Jackie Wilson Single only #94 on Hot 100 and #25 on R&B charts[17]
1967 (1967) Ray Price Danny Boy #60 on Hot 100 and #9 on Country charts[18]
1976 (1976) Elvis Presley From Elvis Presley Boulevard, Memphis, Tennessee
1979 (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
2013 (2013) The Gothard Sisters Compass #11[citation needed]
2015 (2015) Damien Leith Songs from Ireland #11 in Australia[citation needed]


  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. ^ http://musicvf.com/song.php?title=Danny+Boy+by+Andy+Williams&id=2410
  16. ^ Danny Boy Chart Position Retrieved June 16, 2012.
  17. ^ Danny Boy Chart Position Retrieved June 16, 2012.
  18. ^ Danny Boy Chart Position Retrieved June 16, 2012

External links[edit]