Ah, St, Patrick’s Day. Erin go Bragh!
When the Irish come to mind, often so does a handful of songs, songs virtually synonymous with the Emerald Isle. One of those tunes is “I’ll Take You Home Again Kathleen.” But this classic “Irish” ballad was actually written (in 1875) by an American, Thomas P. Westendorf, who was of German descent. Its association with Irish music probably stems from use of the name “Kathleen” (Anglicized from the Irish Caitlín) in the title, and perhaps also because it was one of the signature tunes performed by great Irish tenor, Josef Locke in the 1940’s and 1950’s.
A few words about Jo Locke: He was born in Derry and was a member of the Royal Ulster Constabulary when he started his singing career touring UK music halls as “The Singing Bobby”. He sang in an emotional, operatic style and was able to reduce audiences to tears. Evidently, Jo also had the ability to provoke some other emotions within the heart of many a female listener. He became enormously popular and during the 1950’s was the highest-paid singer in England. Alas, toward the end of that decade, Jo got in trouble with the Tax Man. To avoid paying the taxes, he returned to Ireland and “retired.”
The story of Jo’s eventual return to the stage is the subject of a fanciful, quirky 1991 film, Hear My Song, in which Ned Beatty plays the part of the recalcitrant tenor. This is a little known movie, and quite wonderful. I highly recommend it.
I am not of the same caliber as Josef Locke, or the Sons of the Pioneers, whose version of “Kathleen” is my personal favorite, and yet, I hope you will find my humble rendition of this beautiful song serviceable for our St. Paddy’s Day 2014 celebration. Go n-eírí an bóthar leat! May the road rise with you!