Western Song: Oh My Darling, Clementine
Oh My Darling, Clementine is an American western folk ballad that is most often attributed to Percy Montross and Barker Bradford. The song ranked 38 in the Western Writers of America’s list of the top 100 Western songs of all time, gathered from a survey of its members.
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History of the Song
In 1884, Percy Montrose wrote the song based on an earlier song called Down by the River Liv’d a Maiden. The origin of the melody is unknown. However, in Gerald Brenan’s book South from Granada, he claims that the melody is from an old Spanish ballad, made famous during the California Gold Rush by Mexican miners. It was best known from Romance del Conde Olinos or Niño which is a sad love story popular in Spanish-speaking cultures. It has also been provided with various English translations. No specific source is cited to prove that the song he heard in the 1920s in a remote Spanish village was not an old text with new music, but Brenan said in his preface that all the information in his book was properly evaluated.
It is not clear when, where and who recorded the song in English first, but the first version to reach the Billboard charts was recorded on June 14, 1941, by Bing Crosby which reached the number 20 spot. In an arrangement by Hal Hopper and John Scott Trotter, Oh My Darling, Clementine was given an updated and up-tempo treatment. The rewritten lyrics include a reference to Gene Autry (“can he sue me, Clementine?”), between the five swinging verses.
About the Song Oh My Darling, Clementine
The song is about Clementine, the daughter of a “miner forty-niner” who is also the singer’s lover. One day while doing household chores, Clementine drowned after she stubbed her toe and fell into a raging torrent of brine, as her lover is unable to swim and unwilling to try to save her.
Many artists covered the song and some of the notable versions of the song are recorded by:
- Bobby Darin
- American Rock Duo Jan and Dean
- Tom Lehrer
- Jack Narz
- Elliott Smith
- Megan Washington
- Neil Young and Crazy Horse
- Bing Crosby
Televisions and Movies
The song has been featured or used in some movies and television series including:
- My Darling Clementine
- Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
- Manga Series Banana Fish
- The Late Late Show on Republic of Ireland Television
- American Crime Drama Television Columbo
- Outlander Television Series
- Netflix Original Series K-Drama, It’s Okay to Not Be Okay
Listen (Bing Crosby Version)
Oh My Darling, Clementine Lyrics
In a canyon, in a cavern Excavating for a mine Wealth a miner forty-niner And his daughter, Clementine Oh, my darling, oh, my darling Oh, my darling Clementine Thou I've gone but not forgotten Oh, my darling Clementine She was light of like a fairy And her shoes were number nine Herring boxes without topses Sandals were for Clementine Oh, my darling, oh, my darling Oh, my darling Clementine Do you hear me, are you listening Make me know it, Clementine Oh, my darling, oh, my darling Oh, my darling Clementine Do I sound like Gene Autry Could he through me, Clementine Drove her duclkings to the water Every morning just at nine Hit her foot against a splinter Fell into the foaming brine Oh that darling, thrilling darling Oh that character Clementine Hit her foot against a splinter Are you kidding, Clementine) Ruby lips above the water Blowing bubbles soft and fine But, alas, I was no swimmer Puts that rope to Clementine Oh, my darling, oh, my darling Oh, my darling Clementine Get your lipstick be a hip chick Let me know it, Clementine Oh, my darling, oh, my darling Oh, my darling Clementine Plant you now, I'm gonna dig you later Like a tater Clementine