Oh My Darling, Clementine

"Oh My Darling, Clementine" is an American western folk ballad in trochaic meter usually credited to Percy Montrose (1884), although it is sometimes credited to Barker Bradford. The song is believed to have been based on another song called "Down by the River Liv'd a Maiden" by H. S. Thompson (1863). It is commonly performed in the key of F Major. Members of the Western Writers of America chose it as one of the Top 100 Western songs of all time.[1]

"Oh My Darling, Clementine"
Lyricist(s)credited to Percy Montrose

History and origins

The lyrics were written by Percy Montrose in 1884, based on a earlier song called “Down by the River Liv'd a Maiden“. The tone itself on the other hand is unknown. Gerald Brenan attributes the melody to originally being an old Spanish ballad in his book South from Granada. It was made popular by Mexican miners during the California Gold Rush. The melody was best known from Romance del Conde Olinos o Niño, a sad love story very popular in Spanish-speaking cultures. It was also given various English texts. No particular source is cited to verify that the song he used to hear in the 1920s in a remote Spanish village was not an old text with new music, but Brenan states in his preface that all facts mentioned in the book have been checked reasonably well.[2]

It is unclear when, where and by whom the song was first recorded in English for others to hear but the first version to reach the Billboard charts was that by Bing Crosby recorded on June 14, 1941[3] and this briefly touched the No. 20 spot. It was given an updated and up-tempo treatment in an arrangement by Hal Hopper and John Scott Trotter. The re-written lyrics include a reference to Gene Autry ("could he sue me, Clementine?") amongst the five swinging verses.[4]

Contemporary use

In the 1945 novel Animal Farm by George Orwell, the pig Old Major explains his dream of an animal-controlled society three nights before his death. The song's tune is described in the novel as sounding like a combination of "La Cucaracha" and "Oh My Darling, Clementine".[5]

The singing of the song was a signature trait and running gag of the Hanna-Barbera cartoon character Huckleberry Hound in episodes released in the late 1950s/early 1960s and later appearances. often sung as "Oh My darling, What's her name".

The melody is whistled by the character J. Frank Parnell (played by Fox Harris) in the 1984 film Repo Man, directed by Alex Cox.

The melody for the song has become popular as the rhythm for a number of chants by sports supporters, such as the Barmy Army, popularized by the 1998 hit song "Carnaval de Paris" by English dance trio Dario G.

The song plays during the opening credits for the John Ford movie My Darling Clementine, with Henry Fonda. It also runs as a background score all through the movie.

The melody is used in "Xīnnián Hǎo" (新年好), a Chinese New Year song.[6]

Similarities have been drawn between the song and the chorus of Cher Lloyd's debut single "Swagger Jagger".

At the end of M*A*S*H episode 22 of season 5, "Movie Tonight", the song is sung by all the staff in the operating room after an abortive attempt to view the John Ford movie My Darling Clementine.

The 1963 film Hud, starring Paul Newman, included a scene in a small town movie theatre where the audience sang along to the song prior to the start of the main feature.

In the 1981 film Death Hunt, Charles Bronson's character sings part of the song to himself alone in his log cabin as his pursuers listen on from outside.

The melody is the intro theme for the game Miner 2049er.

In 1992, Peter Brooke, Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, sang "Darlin' Clementine" on The Late Late Show on Republic of Ireland television. Just hours earlier, eight people (seven of them civilians) had been killed in the Teebane bombing. Brooke was forced to resign shortly after.[7][8][9]

The song is featured in the Equinox Episode of Star Trek Voyager which aired in September 1999. The Doctor and Seven of Nine sing lines from the song while he is working on her cortical implant.

In the 2001 Columbo episode "Murder With Too Many Notes", Lieutenant Columbo sings the first verse of the song along with Billy Connolly's character Findlay Crawford when the Lieutenant visits him in his bungalow. Columbo is also heard singing it in the 1978 episode "Make Me A Perfect Murder.[10]

In the 2004 film Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, there are two references to the song (specifically its use in Hanna-Barbera in which Huckleberry Hound sings it): one at the beginning and one at the end, both regarding Clementine (Kate Winslet)'s name. Joel (Jim Carrey) mentions the song to Clementine when they introduce themselves and Clementine herself sings the chorus to Joel on a train to Montauk.[11]

Bobby Darin version

Bobby Darin recorded a version of the song, credited to Woody Harris, in which he made fun of Clementine's weight, joking at the end of the song that whalers might find her: "Hey you sailor, way out in your whaler, a-with your harpoon and your trusty line, if she shows now, yell... there she blows now It just may be chunky Clementine".

Jan and Dean version

Jan and Dean had a hit with "Clementine" hitting as high as 65 on the Billboard Hot 100. It was released under the Dore label (SP DORE 539 (US)) in November, 1959; "You're on My Mind" was the B Side.

Tom Lehrer version

Tom Lehrer recorded a set of variations on the song on his live album An Evening Wasted with Tom Lehrer, demonstrating his theory that "folk songs are so atrocious because they were written by the people." He plays the first verse in the style of Cole Porter, the second in the style of "Mozart or one of that crowd", the third in a disjointed jazz sound in the style of Thelonious Monk, and the final verse in the style of Gilbert and Sullivan.

Other versions


  1. Western Writers of America (2010). "The Top 100 Western Songs". American Cowboy. Archived from the original on 13 August 2014.
  2. Brenan, Gerald (1957). South from Granada. Cambridge: Penguin. p. 119. ISBN 9780141189321. Retrieved 19 September 2019.
  3. "A Bing Crosby Discography". BING magazine. International Club Crosby. Retrieved August 19, 2017.
  4. Reynolds, Fred. The Crosby Collection 1926–1977 (Part Two 1935–1941 ed.). John Joyce. pp. 209–210.
  5. Hauss, Charles (2005). Comparative Politics: Domestic Responses to Global Challenges: Domestic Responses To Global Challenges. Cengage Learning. ISBN 9780534590536.
  6. "Chinese new year in Nagoya". Retrieved 8 February 2018.
  7. https://extra.ie/2019/01/06/entertainment/movies-tv/are-these-top-20-most-memorable-moments-from-rtes-late-late-show
  8. http://www.indymedia.ie/article/69009
  9. https://www.irishtimes.com/news/ireland/irish-news/1992-in-the-north-85-people-killed-in-the-troubles-1.3340596
  10. "Columbo: An analysis of "Make Me a Perfect Murder" part 1 – Biohazard Films". Radioactive-studios.com. 2015-06-13. Retrieved 2015-11-18.
  11. "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004) Soundtracks". Retrieved 1 September 2018.
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