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"Danny Boy" (1910), Frederic Weatherly's (1848-1929) Morbid-Sentimental Song Set to the Tune of "Londonderry Air"


The Hersch
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Speaking of morbid sentimental songs, one of my very favorite morbid sentimental songs is "Danny Boy", and the late Irish tenor Frank Patterson sang it (below) as well as anyone ever could. I think a lot of people know the first chorus, with its pipes calling, but not so much the second, with the dying flowers and the singer anticipating his or her own death. ("And all my grave will warmer, sweeter be" plumbs the morbid depths, doesn't it?) This song always provokes a question as to the relationship between the singer and Danny. Many interpretations are possible, but I've always imagined the singer to be Danny's mother, saying good-bye as Danny emigrates to America during the Famine. Morbid, sentimental, and heart-breaking. Having just lost my own mother, this is even likelier to make me cry than otherwise.

The up-beat big-band version of the tune used as the opening theme for the Danny Thomas sitcom "Make Room for Daddy" has always struck me as rather grotesque.

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One thing I like about Sinead O'Connor's understated version is that it's appropriately somber (Frank Patterson (obviously a far superior singer) sings a version which is fantastic, but also somewhat operatic, and it commands a theatrical venue) - O'Connor actually sounds like a grieving mother, with her voice quivering, and no instrumentation.

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One thing I like about Sinead O'Connor's understated version is that it's appropriately somber (Frank Patterson (obviously a far superior singer) sings a version which is fantastic, but also somewhat operatic, and it commands a theatrical venue) - O'Connor actually sounds like a grieving mother, with her voice quivering, and no instrumentation.

That's very affecting, although I could do without the Irish nationalist bit she tacked on at the end.

About fifteen years ago, I think, one of the local PBS stations ran a fascinating documentary about the song called "Danny Boy: In Sunshine and in Shadow". I've been looking for it intermittently ever since. Just today I thought to look for it on YouTube, and what do you know there's a copy of the whole thing. Unfortunately, the video is of low quality, and during part of it the audio is out of sync, but it's still well worth watching. I've only watched a few bits of it, but I'll bring it up on Roku this evening. I remember being entranced by it when I first saw it.

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This sounds ridiculous, but Garrett Morris actually pulls off a really nice rendition (that's ruined by comedic effects; it would have been more effective if it was completely serious) to open Saturday Night Live, Season 3, Episode 14. Unfortunately, the only place I can find it is on Hulu Plus which is subscription only.

Speaking of "Morbid-Sentimental" songs, I spent an hour today looking for a version of "Waltzing Matilda" that I thought was worthy of posting, and could not find a single one - they're either too fast and perky, or the singers take too much liberty with the notes. Even the Australian folk singers ruin this song, which is best as a slow, mournful ballad; the problem is that it's become hackneyed, so singers feel the need to inject their own personalities into it.

BTW, was it only me, or did anyone else think that "Londonderry Air" was spelled "London Derrière" as a child? (Truly, I did.)

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If you like that song, do not ever watch the movie On the Beach.

And now, my friends, for a rousing rendition of "The Lone Rang ..." erm, the Overture from Rossini's great opera, "William Tell!"

The good thing I've found is that the ruination dies out with the generation subjected to it; Matt wouldn't even know who "Tonto" is (probably for the better, Ke-mo sah-bee).

However, you have quite possibly prevented me from watching a movie that I might have wanted to watch. Thanks, I think.

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The Pogues -- their version of Waltzing Matilda too!

Just FYI, you rabble-rousing penile lesion, "And The Band Played Waltzing Matilda" (1971, Eric Bogle) is an entirely different song than "Waltzing Matilda" (1903, 1895 lyrics by Banjo Patterson (*)). :)

(*) Who is pictured on the Australian $10 bill. AUSS4F.jpg

And it's okay to like Jackie Wilson, but it's not okay to like his version of "Danny Boy." The exact same thing has happened to both songs.

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However, you have quite possibly prevented me from watching a movie that I might have wanted to watch. Thanks, I think.

You're welcome?  Read the book, it's great.  The movie had its moments but if I had to sum it up in one phrase: ham-handed.  You have to watch to the absolute last second to see that, though, and by then the song "Waltzing Matilda" will be pinballing through your brain with such intensity that if you do manage to sleep that night, you'll be dreaming "Waltzing Matlida".

So just out of curiosity, what if someone wanted to write about "book vs. movie"?  What forum should it go into?  Though I think the topic would get old fast.

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You're welcome?  Read the book, it's great.  The movie had its moments but if I had to sum it up in one phrase: ham-handed.  You have to watch to the absolute last second to see that, though, and by then the song "Waltzing Matilda" will be pinballing through your brain with such intensity that if you do manage to sleep that night, you'll be dreaming "Waltzing Matlida".

So just out of curiosity, what if someone wanted to write about "book vs. movie"?  What forum should it go into?  Though I think the topic would get old fast.

It doesn't matter - just pick one, and whichever has the best entrants in the long run (book, or movie), is probably where it will end up. There's really *no* topic that can't be discussed on this website - I can always start a new forum.

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