No Saint Patrick’s Day would be complete without hearing the familiar strains of the favorite Irish song, Danny Boy. The mere mention of the song any time of the year will also bring an immediate and favorable response. “That was my father’s favorite song or someone might say, it was my mother’s favorite song or it is one of my favorite songs. So where did it come from, who wrote it and when was it written? Is it an Irish song? Well it is actually not an Irish song although the Irish have adopted it, it was written in 1910 by an English attorney named Fredrick Whetherly who, as a hobby, enjoyed writing poetry.
Whetherly had sent the lyric as a poem to his sister-in-law Margaret in America. She later recounted how she continually found herself singing her brother in laws words to the melody of the beloved hyme, Londonderry Air. She sent the music to Whetherly in England and he too was impressed with how well the metric rhyme and music fit together and so became the song Danny Boy, the song the world celebrates each March 17th. Danny Boy has been recorded by over a hundred artists since the first recording in 1915.
As a professional singer, I have sung Danny Boy as a request at many funerals. I have never accepted payment and several years ago I went to Ohio to sing at someone’s a service. After this particular service a young lady and her mother came up to me and the mother firmly shook my hand and in a very sincere and tearful voice said, “you must promise to sing those two songs for my funeral.” So intense was her request that I tried to lighten the air with, are you planning on dying this weekend because I am flying back to LA in the morning. Not letting go of my hand she emphatically repeated her request, I knew she was serious. You must promise me and I said I would. Six months later I got an email from the lady’s daughter who had been with her at that service saying, my mom died last night and you promised to sing two songs for her funeral. (The second song was You’ll Never Walk Along.”) I had made that commitment to her mom. The following morning I called musicians together and recorded the two songs she had requested. Two years ago I included the two songs in my CD, Journey On Hold. You may hear it here. Thanks for listening and Happy St. Patrick’s Day!