born on 20/7/1902 in Omagh, Northern Ireland, United Kingdom
died on 6/4/1984 in Cheltenham, England, United Kingdom
Jimmy Kennedy OBE (20 July 1902 – 6 April 1984) was an Irish songwriter, predominantly a lyricist, putting words to existing music such as "Teddy Bears' Picnic" and "My Prayer", or co-writing with the composers Michael Carr, Wilhelm Grosz (aka Hugh Williams) and Nat Simon—amongst others.
Kennedy was born near Omagh, in Northern Ireland. His father, Joseph Hamilton Kennedy, was a policeman in the Royal Irish Constabulary, which existed before the Partition of Ireland.
While growing up in Coagh, Kennedy wrote several songs and poems. He was inspired by local surroundings—the view of the Ballinderry river, the local Springhill house and the plentiful chestnut trees on his family's property, as evidenced in his poem chestnut trees. Kennedy later moved to Portstewart, a seaside resort.
Kennedy graduated from Trinity College, Dublin, before teaching in England. Kennedy was accepted into the Colonial Service, as a civil servant, in 1927.
While awaiting a Colonial Service posting to the colony of Nigeria, Kennedy embarked on a career in songwriting by joining the staff of Bert Feldman, a music publisher based in London's Tin Pan Alley.
In a career spanning more than fifty years, he wrote some 2000 songs, of which over 200 became worldwide hits and about 50 are all-time popular music classics. Until the duo of Lennon and McCartney, Kennedy had more hits in the United States than any other Irish or British songwriter.
His first success came in 1931 with the "Barmaids Song" sung by Gracie Fields. "Red Sails in the Sunset" (1935) was inspired by beautiful summer evenings in his native part of the world, and "South of the Border" by a holiday picture postcard he received from Tijuana, Mexico.
During the early stages of the Second World War, while serving in the British Army's Royal Artillery, where he rose to the rank of Captain, he wrote the wartime hit, "We're Going to Hang out the Washing on the Siegfried Line". His hits also include "The Isle of Capri", "My Prayer", "Teddy Bears' Picnic" (music by John Walter Bratton), "Love is Like a Violin", "Hokey Cokey" and "Roll Along Covered Wagon".
In the 1960s Kennedy wrote the song The Banks of the Erne, for recording by his very good friend from the war years, Theo Hyde. Theo's professional name was Ray Warren, and this is the name that appears on possibly the only published copy of the sheet music.
Kennedy was a patron of the Castlebar International Song Contest from 1973 until his death in 1981 and his association with the event added great prestige to the contest.
Kennedy won two Ivor Novello Awards for his contribution to music and received an honorary degree from the New University of Ulster. He was awarded the OBE in 1983. In 1997 he was posthumously inducted into the Songwriter's Hall of Fame.
Kennedy died in Cheltenham on 6 April 1984, aged 81, and was interred in Taunton, Somerset. He was survived by two sons and a daughter, Janet.
- "Barmaids Song"
- "Red Sails in the Sunset"
- "South of the Border"
- "We're Going to Hang out the Washing on the Siegfried Line"
- "The Isle of Capri"
- "Istanbul (Not Constantinople)"
- "My Prayer"
- "Teddy Bears' Picnic"
- "Love is Like a Violin"
- "Hokey Pokey"
- "Roll Along Covered Wagon"
- "Harbour Lights"
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