The History of Irish Folk Music’s Danny Boy

This article is a collaborative effort, crafted and edited by a team of dedicated professionals.

Contributors: Andranick Tanguiane, Fred Lerdahl,


Danny Boy is a ballad set to an old Irish tune. The lyrics were written by English songwriter Frederic Weatherly and usually tell the story of a young man who is leaving to go to America.

Danny Boy’s Beginnings

The ballad known as “Danny Boy” has been a pop standard since the early twentieth century, but its popularity is largely due to two things: its association with Ireland and its place in popular culture. The origins of the song are actually quite disputed, with some believing it was written by an Englishman and others claiming it is an Irish traditional song that has been adapted over time. Nevertheless, the song has come to be synonymous with Irish culture and is often used as a rallying cry for Irish people both in Ireland and abroad.

“Danny Boy” first began appearing in print in the early 1900s, but it was likely being sung long before that. The earliest known version of the lyrics was published in 1913 by an English music publisher, though it is unclear who wrote the lyrics. The most commonly accepted story is that the tune was adapted from an old Irish folk song called “Londonderry Air”, which was collected by English folk song scholar George Petrie in 1855. It is possible that the lyrics to “Danny Boy” were added to this tune at a later date, or that they were always part of the song – we may never know for sure.

What we do know is that “Danny Boy” quickly became a hit in both Ireland and England, with various artists releasing their own versions of the song. In 1915, it was even adapted into a German military marching tune called “Die Lorelei”! The popularity of “Danny Boy” continued to grow in the United States during the 1920s and 1930s thanks to performers like Al Jolson and Bing Crosby, who included the ballad on several of their albums.

Since then, “Danny Boy” has been covered by countless artists across multiple genres, including Elvis Presley, Patsy Cline, Amy Winehouse, and most recently,…

The Lyrics of Danny Boy

The lyrics of “Danny Boy” were initially written by English lawyer Frederic Weatherly in 1913. Weatherly was a songwriter who was living in Bath at the time, and he had been commissioned to write a song for an upcoming production of Shakespeare’s play Macbeth. Weatherly was inspired to write the lyrics after hearing the story of an Irishman who had to leave his homeland to find work in America.

The original title of the song was “Danny Boy’s Londonderry Air”, and it was set to the tune of an old Irish folk song called “Londonderry Air”. The lyrics tell the story of an Irishman who is forced to leave his homeland and his loved ones behind. Danny Boy is a sad and poignant song that has resonated with people all over the world.

The melody of “Danny Boy” is so beautiful and stirring that it has been used by many other artists over the years, including Elvis Presley, Diana Ross, and Celine Dion. The song has also been adapted into many different languages, including Japanese, Spanish, Portuguese, French, German, and even Klingon!

No matter what language it is sung in, “Danny Boy” always touches the soul.

Danny Boy’s Popularity

Danny Boy’sPopularity
In 1910, Frederic Weatherly, an English lawyer and songwriter, was sent a tune by his sister-in-law Jane Ross of Kyleakin, Skye. She had heard it played by a fiddle player called Daniel O’ Connell, who was one of the most famous fiddle players in Ireland at the time. Weatherly wrote the lyrics to suit the melody and the result was ‘Danny Boy’. It quickly became one of his best-known songs but he never made any money from it because he had given the copyright to his music publisher for free.

The Legacy of Danny Boy

The Irish ballad “Danny Boy” is one of the most beloved and popular songs in the world. The melody is haunting and the lyrics are deeply moving, evoking both sorrow and joy. The song has been covered by countless artists, from Bing Crosby to Taylor Swift, and has been used in movies, television shows, and commercials. It is truly an iconic piece of music.

While the exact origins of “Danny Boy” are unknown, it is thought to be based on an old Irish folk song called “Londonderry Air.” The melody was first published in 1913, and the lyrics were added in 1912 by English songwriter Frederic Weatherly. Weatherly was inspired to write the lyrics after hearing his sister-in-law sing the melody.

The song became popular in Ireland and England, and soon made its way to America. In 1918, Crosby recorded the first commercially successful version of “Danny Boy,” which helped to solidify its place in pop culture. Since then, it has been covered by some of the most famous singers and bands in the world, including Judy Garland, Elvis Presley, U2, and Sarah McLachlan.

“Danny Boy” holds a special place in the hearts of Irish people everywhere. It is a beautiful tribute to their homeland and their culture, and is one of the most recognizable songs in the world.

Similar Posts