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"
Kisses Sweeter Than Wine Weavers 45.jpg
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.


In his 1993 book Where Have All the Flowers Gone, Pete Seeger described the long genesis of this song. Apparently the folk musician Lead Belly heard Irish performer Sam Kennedy in Greenwich Village singing the traditional Irish song "Drimmin Down" aka "Drimmen Dow", about a farmer and his dead cow. (The song, in fact, is called "An droimfhionn donn dilís" ("The whitebacked brown faithful cow/calf"). 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] Lead Belly adapted the tune[3] for his own farmer/cow song "If It Wasn't for Dicky", which he first recorded in 1937. Lead Belly did not like the lack of rhythm, which had been a part of many free-flowing Irish songs, so he made the piece more rhythmic, playing the chorus with a 12-string guitar.

Seeger liked Lead Belly's version of the tune, and his chords as well. In 1950, the quartet The Weavers, which Seeger belonged to, 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[3] (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[4]), 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.[5] 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.[6]

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 performanceEdit

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.[7][2]

Other recordingsEdit


  • Rap duo Fried Rice sampled the song in "J. Rodgers Intro" off their second studio album, Iced Tea Memes.[10]
  • British electronica act Bent sampled Nana Mouskouri's German language recording in their song, "K.i.s.s.e.s."


  1. ^ [1][dead link]
  2. ^ a b "Songs from the Year 1951". Retrieved 4 May 2021.
  3. ^ 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.
  4. ^ "Decca Records in the 27500 to 27999 series". Retrieved 2010-09-24.
  5. ^ "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.
  6. ^ See Music Publisher's Directory Archived 2009-01-08 at the Wayback Machine
  7. ^ "Best Sellers chart run Weavers Kisses Sweeter Than Wine".
  8. ^ "Frankie Vaughn". The Official UK Charts Company. Retrieved September 3, 2020.
  9. ^ Buckley, Peter & Jonathan (eds.) (2003). The Rough Guide to Rock p. lxii. Rough Guides. ISBN 978-1-8582-8457-6.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: extra text: authors list (link)
  10. ^ "Fried Rice (Ft. The Chute, Jimmie F. Rodgers & Pridemore) – J. Rodgers Intro". Retrieved 2019-04-18.