Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Ten Great Recordings of Danny Boy

Celebrating cultural highlights of 1913...
Danny-blogging, essay 2 of 2
on the song "Danny Boy"

In celebration of the 100th anniversary of the song “Danny Boy,” here’s a tasty selection of “Danny Boy” recordings by some favorite artists.  Please understand:  This list is purely subjective as well as limited to songs that I can easily link to via YouTube.  I’m making no claims that these are “the best.”  I’m simply making a claim that:  I like them!

So here are ten versions of Danny Boy, presented in chronological order, with a bonus track at the end:

Judy Garland:  I prefer this 1940 version to the showier version that Garland did in 1955, also available on YouTube.  With “Danny Boy,” I tend to prefer the simpler versions, no frills needed.

Paul Robeson:  With a restrained piano accompaniment, Robeson’s sublime bass voice conveys great depths of meaning.  Proof that men don’t have to be tenors to do “Danny Boy” right!

Harry Belafonte:  Taking his time, Belafonte’s mellow timbre lingers in the air as the last note fades.  Performed at Carnegie Hall, it sounds more like he’s sharing the song privately one-on-one, perhaps comforting a loved one.

Mahalia Jackson:  Usually associated with gospel music, Jackson’s powerful voice searches each word for new shades of meaning.  In her hands, “Danny Boy” sounds like it was meant to be a gospel song.

The Pogues:  You don’t need to be pitch perfect to do a classic “Danny Boy.”  Shane  MacGowan sounds like he’s lived it and that’s what counts.

Frank Patterson:  Of all these versions, this one sounds “most right” to me—an Irish tenor pouring his heart out in song.  Pretty cool that it featured so memorably in Miller’s Crossing (1990), too!

Judy Collins:  Such a beautiful voice, singing a capella.  I love the absolute silence in the hall until the waves of applause at the end.

Johnny Cash:  This is from near the end of Cash’s life, when he was making every word count.

Sinead O’Connor:  I slightly prefer this live version to O’Connor’s recorded one.  On both, she includes a political last stanza that was inserted anonymously many years ago and has become something of a standard over time.

Celtic Woman:  When angels sing “Danny Boy”…

And the 11th bonus track...

Swedish Chef, Beaker, and Animal:  “Moving right along, here are three gifted singers who have all kissed the Blarney Stone…”  It’s the Leprechaun Brothers! 

Reference Sources

The Danny Boy Trivia Connection by Michael Robinson

© 2013 Lee Price


  1. There's a different version by Celtic Woman (with Meav Ni Mhaolchatha being the main singer) that I think is even better than the one you presented. It's this one:


    Also, Deanna Durbin did a great rendition:


    And Jackie Evancho's version is excellent as well (sadly, her mother doesn't want her to ever sing the song again, calling it a "dirge"):


  2. Thanks for the list..You really should listen the version of Nana Mouskuri..