The pipes, the pipes are calling
March 17, 2005 10:56 AM   Subscribe

The Mystery of Danny Boy - Most everyone has heard the song "Danny Boy", and while the lyrics have a traceable history, where did the tune originate? It is known as "Londonderry Air" in some folks circles, and a lovely band arrangement was done with the title "Irish Tune from County Derry". Regardless of the facts, it is still a poignant tune covered by many.
posted by frecklefaerie (18 comments total)
Oh, I love a nice London Derriere.
posted by Floydd at 11:03 AM on March 17, 2005


A living room window, open, its white sheers billowing
lazily in the draft.

Faintly, from another room in the house, we can hear a
phonograph playing John McCormack singing "Danny Boy".

At the cut we hear a thump, close by, and briefly the
sounds of a struggle. We then hear a breathy, gurgling
sound, which quickly subsides.

The living room is late-night quiet.

The shot is a lateral track, which brings us off the window
to an end table in the foreground. On the end table is a
pouch of Bull Durham, a package of rolling papers, a cup of
coffee with steaming rising off of it, and a section of a
newspaper. The draft gently lifts a couple rolling papers
off the table.

The continuing track takes us off the end table and,
booming down, shows us an upset chair and the legs of the
man who occupied it.

We track along the man's body to discover that he is face-
down on the section of newspaper he was reading, blood
oozing out of his slit throat onto the newspaper.

The continuing track shows that, between the fingers of one
outflung hand, a cigarette burns. It is resting on the

We see the feet of another man who is turning and walking
away from the man on the floor, into the background. We
pan over to watch him recede, framing out all of the dying
man except his outflung hand and cigarette.

As the walking man recedes, more and more of his topcoated
body crops in. By the time he reaches the house's front
door, in the deep background, we can see him full figure.

The newspaper in the foreground is crackling into flame.
The rug it rests on is beginning to smoke and discolor.

As the man in the background opens the front door we jump


Waiting in the darkness just outside is another man in a
topcoat and fedora. He is holding two tommy guns.

The men do not exchange words.

The man outside hands his partner a tommy gun and follows
him as he walks back into the house.

Still faint, we continue to hear "Danny Boy". We also hear
the lick of flames.

posted by matteo at 11:07 AM on March 17, 2005

Thanks, matteo! I had originally envisioned this post to have a bunch of links to movies that featured the song, but it was much slower-going than I'd hoped. Perhaps I'll start compiling one on my own... although I imagine a website for all songs. "O Fortuna" from Carmina Burana has been in so many movies.
posted by frecklefaerie at 11:14 AM on March 17, 2005

Haha, thanks, Floydd. I have a book filled with alternate lyrics to old folk tunes, and I'll have to check and see if that one is in there. I like to sing similar version of "Silver Threads Among the Gold."
posted by frecklefaerie at 11:22 AM on March 17, 2005

Verna: What're you chewin' over?
Tom Reagan: Dream I had once. I was walkin' in the woods, I don't know why. Wind came up and blew me hat off.
Verna: And you chased it, right? You ran and ran, finally caught up to it and you picked it up. But it wasn't a hat anymore and it changed into something else, something wonderful.
Tom Reagan: Nah, it stayed a hat and no, I didn't chase it. Nothing more foolish than a man chasin' his hat.

That, I think, is the best use of Danny Boy in a movie.

I can't really take Danny Boy too much, overplayed against some of the great other trad songs, but it still gives me the tears sometimes, and I like to sing it to myself.
posted by Divine_Wino at 11:26 AM on March 17, 2005

Probably my favorite version is the setting by Australio-American eccentric musical visionary Percy Grainger.
posted by soyjoy at 11:46 AM on March 17, 2005

soyjoy - I am a Grainger fanatic. Have you read his biography?
posted by frecklefaerie at 12:35 PM on March 17, 2005

Nope, but I've read a good deal of stuff here and there, and have a couple discs of his music. I only know for sure that he was absolutely one of a kind. Is that bio good?

Oh, and, er... Erin Go Bragh, me lads! (This is Talk Like a Leprechaun Day, isn't it?)
posted by soyjoy at 1:30 PM on March 17, 2005

Difference lyrics to the same tune, and my late grandfather's preferred ...

by Thomas Tiplady (1882-1967)

Above the hills of time the cross is gleaming,
Fair as the sun when night has turned to day;
And from it love’s pure light is richly streaming,
To cleanse the heart and banish sin away.
To this dear cross the eyes of men are turning,
Today as in the ages lost to sight;
And for Thee, O Christ, men’s hearts are yearning,
As shipwrecked seamen yearn for morning light.

posted by grabbingsand at 1:32 PM on March 17, 2005

The Tommy Gun scene shot-by-shot (as it were). "'It was a lot of fun blowing the toes off,' says Joel."

Most macho scene ever. And that's in silk pajamas and slippers. The whole scene is awesome, but two of my favorite bits are that he smells the smoke from the fire downstairs even though he's smoking a cigar, and that he pulls the cigar out of his pocket after disposing of the hitmen and puts it in his mouth.

Miller's Crossing: Fine Country Living.
posted by kirkaracha at 1:33 PM on March 17, 2005

Erin Go Bragh, me lads!

Heh - I added that last part so the person who posted the FPP wouldn't get too mad at us for derailing the thread. Then I scrolled up to see who that poster was.

posted by soyjoy at 1:35 PM on March 17, 2005

Thanks, frecklefaerie! The Grainger setting has long been one of my favorite songs, as well as his Lincolnshire Posy (WMP sample from Amazon.
posted by solotoro at 1:54 PM on March 17, 2005

Peter Kay killed the song for me. Shame the first time I ever heard it was him singing it.
posted by 13twelve at 3:16 PM on March 17, 2005

Paging PinkStainlessTail for a little something I like to think of as "Bann Knee Doy," paging PinkStainlessTail.
posted by mwhybark at 4:33 PM on March 17, 2005

and, uh, yoooo betcha matteo, my favorite Coen Bros. scene ever, and I absolutely concur with the 'overplayed' issue. However, I have played it enough to understand that while it may be the Hibernian Louie Louie, it's also a passing subtle tune which does, in fact, reward careful performance and listening.

Alas, though, for who can listen to it carefully?

Perhaps the singer mourns not only the loss of the emigrant; perhaps the singer mourns the loss of the song.
posted by mwhybark at 4:41 PM on March 17, 2005

solotoro - Linconshire Posy is downright the best wind band piece ever written.

I've weaseled my way into that all too important alto clarinet part twice now, and I am just crazy about it.
posted by frecklefaerie at 1:20 AM on March 18, 2005

Look I'm not sure why... maybe it is the connotation of intimacy and simple care but instead of:
"If you'll not fail to tell me that you love me"
I much prefer:
"For you will bend and tell me that you love me".
That line always touches me.
posted by milkwood at 1:45 AM on March 18, 2005

I liked the version Alexander Gaberman sang on Spin City.
posted by Jim Jones at 1:49 AM on March 18, 2005

« Older more mind control   |   Missing Friends Newer »

This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments