Oh My Darling Clementine
Western Music
The Lone Writer  

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.

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.

Popular Recordings

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 
  • Westlife
  • 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
  • M*A*S*H 

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

1 Comment

  1. Julie

    Could The Song Clementine also be about a cave in In a Ggold Mine?

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