Wednesday, April 17, 2024

Folk Song for September 2024: The Whistling Gypsy (Gypsy Rover)

“The Whistling Gypsy” or “Gypsy Rover” is an example of a folk song written by one composer, Leo Maguire, but which has its roots in much earlier Irish songs that were transported to Appalachia. In earlier versions, a married woman is abducted by someone posing as a “Gypsy,” and things do not end well. However, Maguire set out to write a song with a happier ending. Here is an article with more background information (please preview before sharing with children). 

The song was first recorded in 1952, and became well known through that decade and the next because of the increasing popularity of folk music. The running joke about this song is that you don’t ask which folk group recorded it, you ask which ones (if any) didn’t. You really cannot go very wrong with any recording, from the Clancy Brothers to the Irish Rovers to the Seekers, or even the Wiggles.

It seems important to point out that the word “Gypsy” is not without its controversy, even though the “Gypsy” in question turns out to be a wealthy landowner in disguise, and not a member of the Roma/Travellers/Gypsy people. As the Limeliters pointed out in the introduction to their 1961 recording, his real attraction may have been his talent for whistling.

This song is especially dear to those who were taught to sing it by our friend and Advisory colleague Wendi Capehart.

(Photo of Wendi at our first AO conference in Dallas, 2005)


As the song is under copyright, we suggest using the lyrics posted here

Video Links

The Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem perform the song for a 1962 PBS T.V. special

The Irish Rovers from their album Gems

The Seekers (with lyrics)

 And here is one more lively version:

Bernie Heaney, from her album Pictures in the Clouds

Our helpful intro post is sure to liven up your folk song adventures.

For more information on our folk songs, and for Amazon affiliate 
links to purchase individual songs, see our AO Folk Songs page.
These affiliate links help support AmblesideOnline. 

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