Danny Boy

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"Danny Boy"
Songwriter(s)Frederic Weatherly (lyrics) in 1910

"Danny Boy" is a ballad set to an ancient Irish melody. English songwriter Frederic Weatherly wrote the lyrics, which are usually set to the Irish tune of the "Londonderry Air". The song was written in a small town called 'Limavady'[1] It is most closely associated with Irish communities.


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

Initially written to a tune other than "Londonderry Air", English lawyer and lyricist Frederic Weatherly wrote the words to "Danny Boy" 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 of the story 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. 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]


Various suggestions exist 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 a war or uprising (as suggested by the reference to "pipes calling glen to glen") 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] Indeed, the song has been covered by a diverse range of male singers, including Mario Lanza, Bing Crosby, Andy Williams, Johnny Cash, Sam Cooke, Elvis Presley, Shane MacGowan, Jackie Wilson, Daniel O'Donnell, Harry Belafonte, Tom Jones, John Gary, Jacob Collier, Harry Connick Jr, and comedian Peter Kay amongst many others. All used the original lyrics.


  • "Danny Boy" is considered to be an unofficial signature song and anthem, particularly by Irish Americans and Irish Canadians.[7][not in citation given]
  • "Danny Boy" is considered the Anthem of Northern Ireland. Due to the complicated politics of Northern Ireland, an area governed by the United Kingdom on the island of Ireland (and populated by people of Irish and Scottish descent), anthems of both of those countries are used by their respective communities to indicate allegiance. For several sporting events where Northern Ireland competes individually, such as the Commonwealth Games, the local song “A Londonderry Air” is used as its anthem.[8][9]
  • The song is popular for funerals; but, as it is not liturgical, its suitability as a funeral song is sometimes contested.[10] In 1928, Weatherly himself suggested that the second verse would provide a fitting requiem for the actress Ellen Terry.
  • On 13 April 2013, the South Korean girl group Girls' Generation released the concert album of the 2011 Girls' Generation Asia Tour album. Girls' Generation sang the song on CD 2, track number 7.[11]
  • Figure skating world champion Javier Fernández skated an exhibition program to Danny Boy choreographed by David Wilson, which Fernández debuted in Boston following his victory at the 2016 World Figure Skating Championships.[12]
  • Danny Boy, without lyrics, was the theme song for the television show Make Room for Daddy (1953-1957), later The Danny Thomas Show (1957-1964).
  • Opera singer Renee Fleming sang "Danny Boy" at the funeral service for Senator John McCain on 1 September 2018.


Southern gospel singer Dottie Rambo adapted the melody for her song, "He Looked Beyond My Fault and Saw My Need", which was also notably sung by George Beverly Shea.

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 in "Pop Memories 1890-1954" (not from "Billboard's" charts);[12] Arranged by Glenn Miller and pianist Chummy MacGregor
1941 (1941) Bing Crosby Merry Christmas Paired with "I'll Be Home for Christmas" on its original single. Originally recorded July 5, 1941.[13]
1950 (1950) Al Hibbler Single only #9 on the R&B chart[14]
1955 (1955) Slim Whitman Single only
1956 (1956) Ruby Murray The Voice of Ireland Released as part of her Irish songs album.[15]
1959 (1959) Conway Twitty Saturday Night #10 on Billboard Hot 100 and #18 on R&B charts[16] and #1 in Italy[17][18] (banned by the BBC)[19]
1961 (1961) Jim Reeves The Blizzard/Danny Boy 7" 45rpm vinyl LP #27 on RCA Victor 7855 in "Music Vendor"
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[20]
1962 (1962) Connie Francis Connie Francis Sings Irish Favorites Released as an all-Irish album.
1964 (1964) Judith Durham/
The Seekers
(numerous albums) Judith Durham also performed it solo on many albums and TV appearances
1964 (1964) Harry James One Night Stand With Harry James on Tour in '64 Buddy Rich on drums
1964 (1964) Patti LaBelle and the Bluebelles Sweethearts of the Apollo #76 on Hot 100[21]
1965 Johnny Cash Orange Blossom Special
1965 (1965) Jackie Wilson Single only #94 on Hot 100 and #25 on R&B charts[22]
1967 (1967) Ray Price Danny Boy #60 on Hot 100 and #9 on Country charts[23]
1967 (1967) Tom Jones 13 Smash Hits Also included in 1969 album Tom Jones Live in Las Vegas
1972 (1972) Roy Orbison Memphis
1972 (1972) Glen Campbell The Artistry of Glen Campbell
1976 (1976) Elvis Presley From Elvis Presley Boulevard, Memphis, Tennessee Recorded in response to a request from his father, Vernon, this is from Elvis' penultimate studio recording session in February 1976, recorded in the Jungle Room of Elvis' home in Graceland.
1979 (1979) Willie Nelson One for The Road Recorded on Nelson's 1979 collaboration album One for The Road with singer-songwriter Leon Russell
1979 (1979) Thin Lizzy Black Rose: A Rock Legend Gary Moore and Phil Lynott of Thin Lizzy had previously recorded an instrumental version, titled Dan, on their Tribute to Deep Purple album in 1972
1990 (1990) Carly Simon My Romance
1990 (1990) Frank Patterson Miller's Crossing soundtrack Also included in 1999 album, Ireland In Song
2017 (2017) Bill Evans Empathy Recorded in 1962 featuring 3:41 version with the trio - bonus 10:43 solo piano version added to JAZZTWINS 2017 vinyl release
1991 (1991) Bill Evans Time Remembered Recorded in 1963; released on the CD-version of the album in 1991
1992 (1992) John McDermott Independent recording
1998 (1998) Jacintha Abisheganaden Here's To Ben – A Vocal Tribute To Ben Webster Groove Note
2002 (2002) Johnny Cash American IV: The Man Comes Around American Recordings, Universal
2002 (2002) Eva Cassidy Imagine Blix Street
2005 Celtic Woman Celtic Woman Performed by Méav Ní Mhaolchatha. Rereleased in the 2015 album Decade. The Songs, The Show, The Traditions, The Classics
2009 (2009) Mormon Tabernacle Choir and Orchestra Danny Boy, Live at Red Rocks Performed live at the Red Rocks Amphitheater in Colorado during the 2009 Central US Tour. Arranged by Mack Wilberg. The performance was recorded and it is available at Mormon Tabernacle Choir's YouTube Channel[24]
2012 (2012) BYU's Vocal Point Danny Boy Available on the Vocal Point YouTube Channel[25]
2013 Girls' Generation 2011 Girls' Generation Tour CD 2, #7, the song is sung by five members (Taeyeon, Tiffany, Seohyun, Jessica, Sunny)
2013 (2013) The Gothard Sisters Compass #11[citation needed]
2015 (2015) Damien Leith Songs from Ireland #11 in Australia[citation needed]
2015 (2015) Lisa Hannigan Fargo Season 2, Episode 7 "Did you do this? No, you did it!"
2015 Jacob Collier Maida Vale session for BBC https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZXIApugIuqk


  1. ^ "The 'Danny Boy' Trivia Collection". Standingstones.com. Retrieved 2016-08-29.
  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". Standingstones.com. 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. ^ National Anthems "[1]"
  9. ^ https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Londonderry_Air
  10. ^ No byline (2001-08-10), "'Danny Boy' cannot be played during Mass". National Catholic Reporter. 37 (36):11
  11. ^ "[121130] Danny Boy (2011 Girls' Generation Tour)". Youtube.com. 2012-12-19. Retrieved 2016-03-12.
  12. ^ a b "Danny Boy (Londonderry Air) (song by The Glenn Miller Orchestra) ••• Music VF, US & UK hits charts". Musicvf.com. Retrieved 2016-08-29.
  13. ^ "A Bing Crosby Discography". BING magazine. International Club Crosby. Retrieved August 20, 2017.
  14. ^ "Danny Boy (song by Al Hibbler) ••• Music VF, US & UK hits charts". Musicvf.com. Retrieved 2016-08-29.
  15. ^ "Ruby Murray – The Voice Of Ireland". Discogs. Discogs. Retrieved June 19, 2016.
  16. ^ "Danny Boy (song by Conway Twitty) ••• Music VF, US & UK hits charts". Musicvf.com. 1959-09-28. Retrieved 2016-08-29.
  17. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2012-01-21. Retrieved 2013-08-14.
  18. ^ "HPI - Settimana del 26/03/60". Hitparadeitalia.it. 2007-03-25. Retrieved 2016-08-29.
  19. ^ 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.
  20. ^ "Danny Boy (song by Andy Williams) • Music VF, US & UK hits charts". Musicvf.com. 1961-10-30. Retrieved 2016-08-29.
  21. ^ "Danny Boy (song by Patti LaBelle & the Bluebelles) ••• Music VF, US & UK hits charts". Musicvf.com. 1964-12-19. Retrieved 2016-08-29.
  22. ^ "Danny Boy (song by Jackie Wilson) ••• Music VF, US & UK hits charts". Musicvf.com. 1965-02-27. Retrieved 2016-08-29.
  23. ^ "Danny Boy (song by Ray Price) ••• Music VF, US & UK hits charts". Musicvf.com. 1967-03-25. Retrieved 2016-08-29.
  24. ^ "Mormon Tabernacle Choir and Orchestra. Danny Boy. Arranged by Mack Wilberg. Colorado, Red Rocks Amphitheater, 2009. Live performance recorded". 2009-06-29. Retrieved 2017-12-11.
  25. ^ "Danny Boy - BYU Vocal Point". 2012-11-14. Retrieved 2018-06-08. or the "Music Video Hits, Vol. 1" album

External links[edit]