Thursday, December 11, 2014

Danny Boy –Why it’s so special to me

Yesterday I took my dog for a walk and we stopped at a local 7/11 type store where I bought a Café Mocha and went outside to a table to sit, relax with my dog and read the headline stories on my tablet. A friend happened by and seeing us at the table came over to chat. 

After a few minutes the music on the outdoor sound system started playing Danny Boy. I grew quiet as I listened, telling my friend that this was a special song to me. At the end of the song my friend looked at me and observed that I had a tear in the corner of my eye. He asked what the story behind the song was. I did not answer except to say that it was just one my favorites.

It has been on my mind ever since and I think I'd like to share that tale after all. I think you might enjoy the story behind my love of Danny Boy and you may be able to relate to it.

As most of you are well aware I am 3rd generation Irish American. As a child I spent a lot of time on my Grandfathers farm in Oregon fully immersed in Irish culture and folklore. So much so, in fact, that I spoke with a thick Irish brogue until after my Grandfather passed on when I was 13. A love of music is a big part of that culture and Danny Boy was always a family favorite.

In the late 1980’s I was living in Fort Lauderdale. My little circle of friends and I often met at a restaurant with a nice little Piano Bar. One night I asked the Piano Player to sing Danny Boy for me. He did a beautiful job and (as I had already partaken in several alcoholic beverages by then) I rose to my feet and got the whole bar to give him a standing ovation. I also gave him a substantial tip. After that, whenever he saw me entering the bar he would stop and play several bars of Danny Boy until I got seated at the bar. My friends thought that was great fun and even started calling me Danny Boy as a kind of nickname.

That all ended when I moved back to Southern California to be near my aging parents. That move also resulted in a dramatic change in my social life. I had relatives in the area but not many friends and my father, God rest him, was an alcoholic which put a damper on my drinking habits (we couldn’t have alcohol in the house so wine with dinner and an evening nightcap were replaced by water, soda and coffee). My parents became increasingly in need of attention and my work was also time demanding. My social life outside the family became occasional weekend road trips and vacations to Hawaii and New Orleans.

Then in 2005 my social life took another, unexpected twist. I met someone half my age and we fell in love. It wasn’t something I had ever expected, nor something I particularly wanted at that point in my life –but, as we have all learned, the heart has no master.

One night we were invited to the opening of a new club in Long Beach. It was quite a drive (about 30 miles) but we decided to go. It was a very nice club with dance floors on the second floor and a quiet Piano Bar on the first floor. 

As we entered the bar and presented our invitations, the music stopped and the old familiar first bars of Danny Boy began playing. I looked and saw that it was the same piano player from 15 years earlier and he still recognized me. I told my new 'partner in life' the story and Danny Boy once again became my theme song.

That relationship ended suddenly and tragically. Now, four times a year (Saint Patrick’s Day, New Year’s Eve, and on our birthdays) I put on Danny Boy, pour a nice glass of fine Irish whiskey and sit with my dog listening to the words and lingering tune. I smile and cry at the same time as so many faces and happy times dance through my memory.


Danny Boy was written as a song about a mother saying goodbye to her son as he leaves for America during the Great Potato Famine in the 1850's (one million Irish starved and 2 million others fled to the US). In case you’ve never listened, here are the lyrics: 

Oh Danny boy, the pipes, the pipes are calling

From glen to glen, and down the mountain side

The summers gone, and all the flowers are dying

'Tis you, 'tis you must go and I must bide.

But come ye back when summer's in the meadow

Or when the valleys hushed and white with snow

'Tis I'll be here in sunshine or in shadow

Oh Danny boy, oh Danny boy, I love you so.

And if you come, when all the flowers are dying

And I am dead, as dead I well may be

You'll come and find the place where I am lying

And kneel and say an "Ave" there for me.

And I shall hear, tho' soft you tread above me

And all my dreams will warm and sweeter be

And you'll not fail to tell me that you love me

And I'll shall sleep in peace until you come to me.

Here is a beautiful version of Danny Boy from YouTube. Listen to it and see if a little tear doesn't form in the corner of your eye too:

Today's Reflection:
I'm afraid I'm not your type. I'm not inflatable.

Live Long and Prosper...

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