Tune of the Day: Frankie and Johnny
The first published version of the music to this famous folk song appeared in 1904, credited to Hughie Cannon; the piece, a variant version of whose melody is sung today, was titled “He Done Me Wrong”. Another variant of the melody, with words and music credited to Frank and Bert Leighton, appeared in 1908 under the title “Bill You Done Me Wrong”; this song was republished in 1912 as “Frankie and Johnny”, this time with the words that appear in modern folk variations: Frankie and Johnny were sweethearts…
The story is that of a woman, Frankie, who finds his man Johnny with another woman, and shoots him dead. Frankie is then arrested; in some versions of the song she is also executed.
The story of Frankie and Johnny has been the inspiration for several feature films, such as the 1966 film Frankie and Johnny starring Elvis Presley. Terrence McNally wrote a 1987 play, Frankie and Johnny in the Clair de Lune, which was adapted for the screen in a popular 1991 film starring Al Pacino and Michelle Pfeiffer.