Friday, May 1, 2015

100 years ago: “ A Little Bit of Heaven” hit #1

A Little Bit of Heaven (Shure, They Call It Ireland)

George MacFarlane

Writer(s): J. Keirn Brennan, Ernest R. Ball (see lyrics here)

First Charted: May 1, 1915

Peak: 15 US, 112 GA, 112 SM (Click for codes to charts.)

Sales (in millions): 1.0 (sheet music)

Airplay/Streaming (in millions): -- radio, 0.01 video, -- streaming


Click on award for more details.

About the Song:

This was one of only four chart entries for George MacFarlane. Songwriter Ernest R. Ball, however, had a rich history, especially collaborating on Irish songs with Chauncey Olcott such as this and “When Irish Eyes Are Smiling” (a #1 hit for Olcott in 1913) even though he wasn’t Irish himself. The Songwriting Hall of Famer also wrote “Will You Love Me in December As You Do in May?” (#2 for Haydn Quartet in 1906), “Mother Machree” (#1 for John McCormack and Will Oakland in 1911), and “Goodbye, Good Luck, God Bless You” (#1 for Henry Burr in 1916).

Like Ball, MacFarlane wasn’t Irish either. He was born in 1878 in Kingston, Ontario, Canada. Despite his lack of Irish connections, he recognized the popularity of Irish songs. SM He had a #16 hit with “My Own Home Town in Ireland” in 1916 and took “A Little Bit of Heaven” to #1 in 1915.

The song was introduced in the Broadway musical The Heart of Paddy Whack by Chauncey Olcott. The show only ran for seventeen performances. SM It asks, “Have you ever heard the story of Ireland got its name?” in the first line and then unfolds the story “as my dear old mother told the tale to me.” TY2 A seldom-sung second verse reminds that Ireland is the “dear old and of fairies” and that nowhere else has “such lakes and dells.” TY2

“MacFarlane sang in a dramatic, operatic baritone voice, singing the praises of the country and how it got its name.” SM His version went to #1, but there were three other chart versions in 1915 – Charles Harrison (#2), John Barnes Wells (#8), and John McCormack (#9). PM

The song was used in a movie musical of the same name in 1940. TY2 It was also featured in the 1944 Ernest Ball biopic Irish Eyes Are Smiling and in the 1947 Olcott biopic My Wild Irish Rose. DJ


First posted 3/18/2023.

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