Kisses Sweeter than Wine

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"Kisses Sweeter Than Wine" is a popular song, with lyrics written and music adapted in 1950 by Pete Seeger and Lee Hays of The Weavers, and recorded by Jimmie Rodgers.[1] The tune was adapted from Lead Belly's "If It Wasn't for Dicky" (1937), which in turn was adapted from the traditional Irish folk tune "Drimindown / Drumion Dubh". The Weavers first released the song in 1951 as a Decca single, which reached number 19 on the Billboard chart and number 20 on the Cashbox chart in 1951.[2]

"Kisses Sweeter Than Wine"
1951 45 rpm release by The Weavers, 9-27670
Single by The Weavers
A-side"When the Saints Go Marching In"
ReleasedJuly 1951 (1951-07)
RecordedJune 12, 1951
Composer(s)Traditional Irish (credited to "Joel Newman")
Lyricist(s)Pete Seeger, Lee Hays (under pseudonym "Paul Campbell")
1951 sheet music, Folkways, New York.



Irish folk song – "An droimfhionn donn dilís" / "Drimindown"


The song is based on a version of the traditional Irish song "An droimfhionn donn dilís" (Irish for "The whitebacked brown faithful cow/calf") about a farmer and his dead cow. It is of the type categorized as "aisling" (dream) where the country of Ireland is given form. Most times the form is that of a comely young woman but here it is the faithful handsome cow.[citation needed]

The Irish singer Tom Galvin was recorded in 1982 singing a version called "Droimeann Donn" which uses a very similar melody to the one adapted by Leadbelly.[3] Traditional recordings of the original Irish song, Anglicised as "Drimindown" or "Drimmin Doo", also survived in the oral tradition in North America, from Prince Edward Island in Canada,[4] to the Ozark region of the United States.[5]

Lead Belly – "If It Wasn't for Dicky"


In his 1993 book Where Have All the Flowers Gone, Pete Seeger described the long genesis of this song. The American folk and blues singer Lead Belly heard Irishman Sam Kennedy singing "Drimmin Down" Greenwich Village. Lead Belly adapted the song into "If It Wasn't for Dicky",[6] which retained the tune he heard and the farmer/cow theme. Lead Belly did not like the lack of rhythm, a common feature Irish songs, so he made the piece more rhythmic, playing the chorus with a 12-string guitar. "If It Wasn't for Dicky" was first recorded by Lead Belly in 1937.

The Weavers – "Kisses Sweeter than Wine"


Seeger liked Lead Belly's version of the song. In 1950, the quartet The Weavers, to which Seeger belonged, had made a hit version of Lead Belly's "Goodnight, Irene", and they were looking for new material. Seeger and Lee Hays wrote new lyrics[6] (Hays wrote all new verses, Seeger re-wrote Lead Belly's chorus), turning "If It Wasn't for Dicky" into a love song. "Kisses Sweeter Than Wine" was published in 1951 and recorded by The Weavers on June 12, 1951 in New York City for Decca Records (catalog number 27670[7]), reaching number 19 on the US Billboard chart.

The music was credited to Joel Newman and the lyrics to Paul Campbell, both names being pseudonyms for Howie Richmond, The Weavers' publisher.[8] The Weavers' music publisher was Folkways Publishing, one of the many subsidiaries (aliases) of TRO/The Richmond Organisation, founded by Howard Richmond. Others are Ludlow Music, Folkways Music, Essex, Hollis, Hampstead House, Worldwide Music, Melody Trails, and Cromwell.[9]

In his 1993 book, Seeger wrote: "Now, who should one credit on this song? The Irish, certainly. Sam Kennedy, who taught it to us. Lead Belly, for adding rhythm and blues chords. Me, for two new words for the refrain. Lee, who wrote seven verses. Fred and Ronnie, for paring them down to five. I know the song publisher, The Richmond Organization, cares. I guess folks whom TRO allows to reprint the song, (like Sing Out!, the publisher of this book) care about this too."

Chart performance


The Weavers' original 1951 single release spent six weeks on the Billboard chart, peaking at number 19, and reached number 20 on the Cashbox chart.[10][2]

Other recordings



  • Rap duo Fried Rice sampled the song in "J. Rodgers Intro" off their second studio album, Iced Tea Memes.[14]
  • British electronica act Bent sampled Nana Mouskouri's German language recording in their song, "K.i.s.s.e.s."


  1. ^ "Original versions of Kisses Sweeter than Wine by Peter, Paul and Mary | SecondHandSongs". SecondHandSongs. Archived from the original on 2018-02-22. Retrieved 2012-12-28.
  2. ^ a b "Songs from the Year 1951". Retrieved 4 May 2021.
  3. ^ "Droimeann Donn (Roud Folksong Index S465602)". The Vaughan Williams Memorial Library. Retrieved 2022-11-26.
  4. ^ "Drimindown (Roud Folksong Index S384579)". The Vaughan Williams Memorial Library. Retrieved 2022-11-26.
  5. ^ "Song Information". Retrieved 2022-11-26.
  6. ^ a b c "Show 18 – Blowin' in the Wind: Pop discovers folk music. [Part 1] : UNT Digital Library". 1969-05-18. Retrieved 2010-09-24.
  7. ^ "Decca Records in the 27500 to 27999 series". Retrieved 2010-09-24.
  8. ^ "Howie Richmond copyrighted many songs originally in the public domain but now slightly revised to satisfy Decca and also to reap the profits," Ronald D. Cohen, Rainbow Quest: the Folk Music Revival and American Society (Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press), page 71. By so doing, Richmond could reap both the publishers' share and also the composers share of the song's earnings.
  9. ^ See Music Publisher's Directory Archived 2009-01-08 at the Wayback Machine
  10. ^ "Best Sellers chart run Weavers Kisses Sweeter Than Wine".
  11. ^ "CHUM Hit Parade - November 25, 1957".
  12. ^ "Frankie Vaughn". The Official UK Charts Company. Retrieved September 3, 2020.
  13. ^ Buckley, Peter & Jonathan (eds.) (2003). The Rough Guide to Rock p. lxii. Rough Guides. ISBN 978-1-8582-8457-6. {{cite book}}: |first= has generic name (help)
  14. ^ "Fried Rice (Ft. The Chute, Jimmie F. Rodgers & Pridemore) – J. Rodgers Intro". Retrieved 2019-04-18.