The Shooting of Dan McGrew

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"The Shooting of Dan McGrew" is a narrative poem by Robert W. Service, first published in The Songs of a Sourdough in 1907 in Canada.[1]

Details[edit]

The tale takes place in a Yukon saloon during the Yukon Gold Rush of the late 1890s. It tells of three characters: Dan McGrew, a rough-neck prospector; McGrew's sweetheart "Lou", a formidable pioneer woman; and a mysterious, weather-worn stranger who wanders into the saloon where the former are among a crowd of drinkers. The stranger buys drinks for the crowd, and then proceeds to the piano, where he plays a song that is alternately robust and then plaintively sad. He appears to have had a past with both McGrew and Lou, and has come to settle a grudge. Gunshots break out, McGrew and the stranger kill each other, and "the Lady that's known as Lou" ends up with the stranger's "poke of gold".

The poet was a Scotsman who came to Canada as a young adult, and was fascinated with the lives and landscapes of the Canadian Northwest where he went to work. Along with "The Cremation of Sam McGee", this poem was arguably his best known. It was the basis of a 1998 novel, The Man From the Creeks, by Robert Kroetsch,[2] a longtime admirer of Service's works. It was also the inspiration for the 1949 song "Dangerous Dan McGrew" by Guy Lombardo and His Royal Canadians. Also it has been recalled in the fourth strophe of the song "Put the Blame on Mame", sung by Rita Hayworth in 1945 movie "Gilda"; the text claims that rather than being shot and killed, Dan McGrew was slain by Mame's "hoochy-coo" dance.

The poem's unique history – as a spoken word piece – was highlighted when US President Ronald Reagan and Canadian Prime Minister Brian Mulroney did their own alternating recital of the poem – in private meetings and in public.

See also[edit]

External links[edit]

Murder Most Foul, based on an Agatha Christie story

References[edit]

  1. ^ Service, Robert W. (1907). Songs of a Sourdough. Toronto: W. Briggs. LCCN 16020848. 
  2. ^ Kroetsch, Robert (2008). The Man From the Creeks. New Canadian Library. ISBN 0-7710-9581-3.