By Gerry Breen
6th april, 1984 – On this day, Jimmy Kennedy, OBE, Northern Irish songwriter, died at the age of 81. In a career spanning more than fifty years, he wrote more than 2,000 songs, and more than two hundred of them became worldwide hits. Not only that, but about fifty of them became all-time popular music classics.
Kennedy was born near Omagh. His father, Joseph Hamilton Kennedy, was a policeman in the Royal Irish Constabulary. He graduated from Trinity College, Dublin, and worked as a teacher and as a civil servant before becoming a full-time songwriter from the mid 1930s.
Until the era of the Beatles, Kennedy probably had more hits in the United States than any other Irish or British songwriter.
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, Love is Like a Violin, Hokey Cokey and Roll Along Covered Wagon.
Kennedy was a patron of the Castlebar International Song Contest from 1973 until his death in 1984 and his association with the event added great prestige to the contest.
He 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.