Oh My Darling Clementine

I have known this song all my life. I heard my mother singing it countless times while nursing whoever that moment my youngest sibling was. She was fond of post war songs like some people (including me) are fond of the 80’s. I guess we are somehow attached to memories of our youth whenever that is.  

The songs that were included in her repertoire (among so many) were: Fraulein, Paper Roses, There goes my Love and Oh My Darling Clementine.  I can sing them all by heart except the latter; I only know the first sentence of the chorus, nothing more. So, when I heard the other day an ice cream car playing the tune, I decided to look for the lyrics once and for all.

I wasn’t prepared for it. I didn’t expect a tragic story wrapped in a seemingly upbeat melody and told in a dead pan style. A tongue-in-cheek parody of a sad ballad. More like a limerick than a romantic song. I was shocked! Though it meant to be a joke, I find it altogether sad; so sad… 

Here is the lyrics for you so you can be the judge.

Near a cavern, across from a canyon,
Excavating for a mine,
Lived a miner, forty-niner
And his daughter Clementine

Oh my Darling, Oh my Darling,
Oh my Darling Clementine.
You are lost and gone forever,
Dreadful sorry, Clementine.

Light she was and like a fairy,
And her shoes were number nine
Herring boxes without topses
Sandals were for Clementine.

CHORUS:

Drove she ducklings to the water
Every morning just at nine,
Hit her foot against a splinter
Fell into the foaming brine.

CHORUS:

Ruby lips above the water,
Blowing bubbles soft and fine,
But alas, I was no swimmer,
So I lost my Clementine.

CHORUS:

How I missed her! How I missed her!
How I missed my Clementine,
Till I kissed her little sister,
And forgot my Clementine.

CHORUS:

Then the miner, forty-niner,
Soon began to peak and pine,
Thought he oughter join his daughter,
Now he’s with his Clementine.

CHORUS:
In the church yard in the canyon
Where the myrtle doth entwine
There grows roses and other posies
Fertilized by Clementine.

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31 thoughts on “Oh My Darling Clementine”

  1. Wikipedia says ..
    “Oh My Darling, Clementine” is an American western folk ballad in 87.87D trochaic metre 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). This American folk song 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]

    I always remember the cartoon character Huckleberry Hound giving vent. Very mournful. Cheers Jamie.

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    1. They say also that it was originated in Spain. Mexican and others Spanish speaking miners used to sing it and so and so. It stated there also that It is unclear when, where and by whom the song was first recorded in English for others to hear.

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  2. It’s an unpleasant song that I never thought about much as a child because I was trying too hard to learn it. I’m reminded now why I don’t sing it. You know, nursery rhymes tend to be unpleasant, too. “Ashes, ashes, we all fall down.” “Along came a blackbird and snipped off her nose.” Sheesh. I know in the nursery rhymes there was a code to a political message therein (“Ring around the Rosey” was about the European plague, and “Sing a Song of Sixpence” was about Henry VIII closing Catholic churches). But those contexts don’t exist for us, so can’t we have more pleasant songs? And can’t Clementine’s fate be rendered better? Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

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    1. Reminds me of of Disney Films… They are all horror stories if you ask me. The shark in Finding Nemo chasing Him inside the shipwreck, the tiger in Tarzan chasing the mother Gorilla while holding the baby, mother of Bambi shot in front of him, A stepmother who want Snowhite dead and her heart carved out as a proof… very traumatic for a child to see.

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  3. I too recall this song from childhood and it still remains a favourite. Although I knew the content of the lyrics, I took it as a reminder to deal with any kind of tough times that life dished out, and try to maintain peace and even happiness. The song is so upbeat and catchy its hard not to like it. I used to cry at Auld Lang Syne as a kid though, without fail. Still do.

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    1. That is sure another way of looking at it. I know Auld Lang Syne as a graduation song. When I moved to Europe later on, people here sing it when the clock strikes twelve on New Years day. I will look for the lyrics because it is another oldie I’m so familiar with but know nothing aside from the opening sentence.

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    2. Oh, I just found out the song Auld lang Syne as we know today was written as a poem by Robert Burns in 1788 and set to the tune of a traditional folk song later on. But he didn’t originally composed it because he admitted that he took it from an old man in 1711 and revised it. Here is the original poem that never been published anywhere.

      Should Old Acquaintance be forgot,
      and never thought upon;
      The flames of Love extinguished,
      and fully past and gone:
      Is thy sweet Heart now grown so cold,
      that loving Breast of thine;
      That thou canst never once reflect
      On old long syne.
      CHORUS:
      On old long syne my Jo,
      On old long syne,
      That thou canst never once reflect,
      On old long syne.

      I must say I like it better.

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