Oh My Darling, Clementine
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"Oh My Darling, Clementine" is an American western folk ballad in 87.87D trochaic meter usually credited to Percy Montrose (1884), although it is sometimes credited to Barker Bradford. The song is believed to have been based on another song called "Down by the River Liv'd a Maiden" by H. S. Thompson (1863). This American folk song is commonly performed in the key of F Major. Members of the Western Writers of America chose it as one of the Top 100 Western songs of all time.
History and origins
While at first the song seems to be a sad ballad sung by a bereaved lover about the loss of his darling, the daughter of a miner in the 1849 California Gold Rush, as the verses continue it becomes obvious that the song is in fact a tongue-in-cheek parody of a sad ballad. For example, in the second verse we learn that Clementine's feet are so big that she has to wear boxes instead of shoes (presumably because size 9 shoes are not available); hardly a detail that would be mentioned in a serious romantic ballad. Her "tragic demise" is caused by a splinter in her toe that causes her to fall and drown – clearly a ridiculous accident, but told in a deadpan style. Finally, at the end of the song, the lover forgets his lost love after one kiss from Clementine's "little sister".
Gerald Brenan attributes the melody to originally being an old Spanish ballad in his book South from Granada. It was made popular by Mexican miners during the Gold Rush. The melody was best known from Romance del Conde Olinos o Niño, a sad love story very popular in Spanish-speaking cultures. It was also given various English texts. No particular source is cited to verify that the song he used to hear in the 1920s in a remote Spanish village was not an old text with new music, but Brenan states in his preface that all facts mentioned in the book have been checked reasonably well.
It is unclear when, where and by whom the song was first recorded in English for others to hear but the first version to reach the Billboard charts was that by Bing Crosby in 1941 when it briefly touched the No. 20 spot. It was given an up-dated and up-tempo treatment in an arrangement by Hal Hopper and John Scott Trotter. The re-written lyrics include a reference to Gene Autry ("could he sue me, Clementine?") amongst the five swinging verses.
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The melody is whistled by the character J. Frank Parnell (played by Fox Harris) in the 1984 film Repo Man, directed by Alex Cox.
The melody for the song has become popular as the rhythm for a number of chants by sports supporters, such as the Barmy Army, popularized by the 1998 hit song "Carnaval de Paris" by English dance trio Dario G.
An instrumental version was used in the movie Back to the Future Part III.
It is used as background music in another John Ford film, The Grapes Of Wrath, also starring Henry Fonda.
A North Korean musical movie from 1972, The Flower Girl, used the song's melody as its main theme. This musical was said to have been written by Kim Il-sung.
Scooby Doo whistled the tune in the episode featuring the Miner 49'er.
A birthday version with Chinese lyrics is featured in the 2001 movie Quitting. Excerpts of the song can also be heard in Michel Gondry's film, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. Kate Winslet's character, Clementine Kruczynski, complains that people always make fun of her name because of this song. Also subtle emphasis is placed on the phrase, "you are lost and gone forever," to fit with the film's theme.
The song provides the central musical theme in the 2006 South Korean television drama, Spring Waltz (봄의 왈츠).
This song is also used in one doll of a children's toy called Sing-a-ma-jigs.
During the Campaign of Zamboanga City Ill-fated Mayor. Cesar Climaco the melody is used in "Ay si Cesar, Ay si Cesar Climaco" sung in Chavacano. It was also sung during his funeral in 1984. Coincidentally, "O my Darling Clementine" was the love song of Climaco to his wife, Julia Floreta-Climaco.
On February 8, 1986, the TV series Shelley Duvall's Tall Tales & Legends aired the episode "Darlin' Clementine", wherein Clementine was the only woman in a mining camp and fell in love with a miner named Levis. After a harrowing experience with "The Mountain Man" who wished to take Clementine for his own, her father gave his blessing to marry Levis, and it was as she went to meet Levis that the incident happened. The song is sung during both the opening and closing credits; Shelley Duvall (as Clementine) hums the tune, claiming she had made it up as a kid, and Levis sings a version of it as he returns to the camp to ask her father's blessings, carrying a special gift for Clementine. The story seems to pull elements from both songs, "Oh My Darling Clementine" and "Down By The River Liv'd a Maiden", as Clementine did have a drink before heading to the river and is seen by Levis after the incident.
The Malayalam funeral march "Samayamam Rathathil Njan" by Volbrecht Nagel uses this tune.
An English nursery rhyme, "Call the Doctor", uses the tune.
The 1963 film Hud, starring Paul Newman, included a scene in a small town movie theatre where the audience sang along to the song prior to the start of the main feature.
In the 1981 film Death Hunt, Charles Bronson's character sings part of the song to himself alone in his log cabin as his pursuers listen on from outside.
A rendition of the song was heard on Shining Time Station.
David Lister (in the sci-fi show Red Dwarf season 1) sang a parody of "Clementine". The Lyrics 'Miner 49er' were changed to 'lived and old Plutonian Miner' implying that the farmer lived on Pluto.
This song is a playable level in the video game Wii Music.
The second stanza of the refrain bears marked similarities to the "Ale, Ale, Ale" fan chant heard at German DFB Pokal and UEFA Champions League soccer matches ( "You are lost and gone forever, dreadful sorry, Clementine ... " ).
An English country duo containing of Michael Weston King and Lou Dalgleish have named themselves My Darling Clementine.
In the 2001 Columbo episode "Murder With Too Many Notes", Lieutenant Columbo sings the first verse of the song along with Billy Connolly's character Findlay Crawford when the Lieutenant visits him in his bungalow. Columbo is also heard singing it in the 1978 episode "Make Me A Perfect Murder.
In the Arthur episode "April 9th", Buster Baxter was given Mr. Morris's accordion when the latter moved out of Elwood City during the episode, in light of the episode's events, and near the end of the episode Buster plays the song on the accordion.
In Duck Dodgers (TV series) while doing a love scene for a movie in the episode "Hooray For Hollywood Planet", Dodgers messed up the script by singing the song.
Bobby Darin version
Bobby Darin recorded a version of the song, credited to Woody Harris, in which he made fun of Clementine's weight, joking at the end of the song that whalers might find her: "Hey you sailor, way out in your whaler, a-with your harpoon and your trusty line, if she shows now, yell... there she blows now It just may be chunky Clementine".
Jan and Dean version
Jan and Dean had a hit with "Clementine" hitting as high as 65 on the Billboard Hot 100. It was released under the Dore label (SP DORE 539 (US)) in November, 1959; "You're On My Mind" was the B Side.
Tom Lehrer version
Tom Lehrer recorded a set of variations on the song on his live album An Evening Wasted with Tom Lehrer, demonstrating his theory that "folk songs are so atrocious because they were written by the people." He plays the first verse in the style of Cole Porter, the second in the style of "Mozart or one of that crowd", the third in a disjointed jazz sound in the style of Thelonious Monk, and the final verse in the style of Gilbert and Sullivan.
- In 2004 the song was recorded by Westlife on their Allow Us to Be Frank.
- The song is referenced in the lyrics of two separate songs by Elliott Smith. The first, "Clementine", from his 1995 self-titled album. The second, "Sweet Adeline", appears three years later on XO.
- Megan Washington recorded "Clementine" in 2010. The song references some of the lyrics from the original.
- In 2012 Neil Young and Crazy Horse recorded an almost six minutes long, hard rock version of "Clementine" on their album Americana.
- The Robben Island Singers adapted the tune for their anti-apartheid ballad "What a System, What a Crime"
- Western Writers of America (2010). "The Top 100 Western Songs". American Cowboy. Archived from the original on 10 August 2014.
- Reynolds, Fred. The Crosby Collection 1926-1977 (Part Two 1935-1941 ed.). John Joyce. pp. 209–210.
- "YouTube". YouTube. Retrieved 2014-04-28.
- "Yeh Hai Bombay Meri Jaan - Johnny Walker, Mohd Rafi, Geeta Dutt, CID Song". YouTube. 2011-09-09. Retrieved 2015-11-18.
- "Columbo: An analysis of "Make Me a Perfect Murder" part 1 - Biohazard Films". Radioactive-studios.com. 2015-06-13. Retrieved 2015-11-18.
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|Wikibooks has a book on the topic of: Songbook/Oh My Darling Clementine|
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Oh My Darling, Clementine.|
- MIDI sound file
- Passage referring to the song in the book South from Granada
- Short radio episode "Clementine" from California Legacy Project.
- The free score on www.traditional-songs.com