Friday, September 21, 2007

100 years ago: “Harrigan” hit #1


Billly Murray

Writer(s): George M. Cohan (see lyrics here)

First Charted: September 14, 1907

Peak: 19 US, 12 GA, 16 SM, 5 DF (Click for codes to singles charts.)

Sales (in millions): -- US, -- UK, -- world (includes US + UK)

Airplay/Streaming (in millions): -- radio, -- video, -- streaming


Click on award for more details.

About the Song:

George M. Cohan wrote this as a tribute to Ed Harrigan, who was another Irish American who made important contributions to American musical theater. WK He was a “theatre empresario…who was an actor, singer, dancer, playwright, lyricist and producer, one of the founding fathers of modern American musical theatre in the 19th century.” SM In the song, the Irishman is “extremely proud of all his Irish blood. He dares anybody to ‘say a word agin’ me’ and claims proudly that no shame has ever been connected with his name.” TY2 However, Cohan didn’t just use the song to celebrate his own Irish heritage, but poke some fun at it as well. WK

It was performed in the show Fifty Miles from Boston by James C. Marlowe in 1908. However, in a move that was unusual for the time, it was actually recorded by several artists before being featured in the show. Billy Murray and Edward Meeker both recorded versions which charted in September 1907. Murray’s recording preceded Meeker’s on the charts by two weeks and went to #1 for nine weeks. Meeker’s version reached #8. Murray was born in Philadelphia and spent most of his life in Denver, so the strong Irish accent in the song was “obviously put on.” SM He did, however, claim he had Irish blood in his family. SM

The spelling part of the song led to it being adapted for other purposes. In his bid for the Prsidential nomination in 1956, Averell Harriman used a variation which sang “H, A, double-R, I, M, A, N. During John F. Kennedy’s campaign a version of “High Hopes” was recorded by Frank Sinatra that also featured the lyrics “K, E, double-N, E, D, Y.” It was also used in an episode of Gilligan’s Island with Gilligan’s name spelled out. There have also been parodies adapting it as a children’s song and Allan Sherman did a version of it about pianist Vladimir Horowitz. WK

The song was featured in the Cohan biopic Yankee Doodle Dandy in 1942 starring James Cagney, who performed the song with Joan Leslie. The film suggested it was an early work of Cohan’s that he had to shop around, but in real ife Cohan had already landed some major Broadway hits when he wrote “Harrigan.” WK Joel Grey sang it in the 1968 Broadway show George M!


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First posted 12/8/2022; last updated 12/15/2022.

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