"Dear Old Pal of Mine" | The Canadian Encyclopedia


"Dear Old Pal of Mine"

“Dear Old Pal of Mine” is a pop song from the First World War with music by Gitz Rice and lyrics by Harold Athol Robé. Released by the Victor record label, it was originally recorded in New York City on 1 May 1918 with Irish tenor John McCormack and the Victor Orchestra under conductor Josef Pasternak (Victor 755). It was among the Irish tenor’s most popular 78s. The song is held in the collection of the US Library of Congress.

“Dear Old Pal of Mine” and Rice’s “On the Road that Leads Back Home” (Ricordi 1918) were featured in the recruitment show Getting Together, which was staged in New York City in 1918. The idea for the song, according to an editorial note on the sheet music (Ricordi 1918), was conceived by Rice while he was on sentry duty at the front lines at Ypres, Belgium. The words by Harold Athol Robé (born 1881 in US; died 1946) express the longing of a man, presumably a soldier, for his sweetheart (the “pal” of the song’s title).

The universality of the sentiment may have contributed to the song’s post-war popularity. An edition of the Edison Amberol Records newsletter said of the song: “It is one of those simple melodies that goes straight to the heart, and is unforgettable.” It was recorded by several tenors and baritones, including American crooner Bing Crosby in 1942. Among other vocal recordings were those by the Canadians Henry Burr and Hector Pellerin (the latter’s in French under the title “Cœur blessé”).

Instrumental versions include those by Joseph C. Smith’s Orchestra (Victor 18543), recorded on 18 March 1919, as well as Sascha Jacobsen (violin), and Sam Moore and Leroy Smeck (handsaw and guitar). Details of these and other recordings have been published in Edward B. Moogk’s Roll Back the Years: History of Canadian Recorded Sound and Its Legacy, Genesis to 1930 (1975).