Clementine (2012) – Neil Young & Crazy Horse

Clementine is the second song on Young & Crazy Horses 2012 Americana record. It is the 31st studio album by Canadian / American musician Neil Young. “Oh My Darling, Clementine” is a traditional American western folk ballad from 1884. In Clementine the verses are so dark. Young was quoted as saying:

Almost every one (of the songs on Americana) has to do with people getting killed, with life-or-death struggles. You don’t hear much about that; they’ve been made into something much more light. So I moved them away from that gentler interpretation. With new melodies and arrangements, we could use the folk process to invoke the original meanings for this generation.

[Verse 1]
In a cavern, in a canyon
Excavating for a mine
Dwelt a miner forty niner
And his daughter clementine
Light she was and like a fairy
And her shoes were number nine
Herring boxes, without topses
Sandals were for clementine

Clementine! Clementine!
Oh my darling, clementine!

It is said below: the lyrics were written by Percy Montross in 1884, based on an earlier song called “Down by the River Liv’d a Maiden”, printed in 1863. The origin of the melody is unknown. In his book South from Granada, Gerald Brenan claims that the melody was from an old Spanish ballad, made popular by Mexican miners during the California Gold Rush. It was best known from Romance del Conde Olinos o Niño, a sad love story very popular in Spanish-speaking cultures.

It is unclear when, where, and by whom the song was first recorded in English, but the first version to reach the Billboard charts was that by Bing Crosby recorded on June 14, 1941.Bobby Darin recorded a version of the song in 1960, with lyrics credited to Woody Harris, in which Clementine is reimagined as a 299-pound woman. After she falls into the water, Darin suggests that Clementine could be mistaken for a whale and calls out to those on the high seas to watch for her, in a rhythm and style reminiscent of Darin’s rendition of “Mack the Knife”.

1. Americana (Neil Young & Crazy Horse album) – Wikipedia
2. Oh My Darling, Clementine – Wikipedia

“The more I live, the more I learn. The more I learn, the more I realize, the less I know.”- Michel Legrand

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Posted in Music
14 comments on “Clementine (2012) – Neil Young & Crazy Horse
  1. bwcarey says:

    Neil Young has had such an influence on so many, amen

    • That seems true. To me he seems like the Joni Mitchell equivalent of Americana Folk – rock music (if I can compare him to a female artist, he is obviously close to).
      Having said, that I am not very cognizant of much of his discography apart from the obvious tracks. So, I’ll just leave that idea out there.

  2. This song always featured in family sing-a-longs (yes, we had them!) during the 50s and 60s!

  3. Badfinger (Max) says:

    Neil sure put an edge to it…I love this! It’s one of the first songs I learned in 1st grade.

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