written ~6/27/05

One thing that many people often overlook about The Wicker Man is that it has elements similar to that of a musical! There are ten songs in the film, most of which are seen to be performed by the characters on screen.

Paul Giovanni, an American playwright and musician, was given the task of being The Wicker Man's musical director. As well as composing the original music, he adapted the traditional tunes heard in the film. He also sings on two of the songs. Giovanni can be seen on screen during the film's climactic scenes and more notably during the 'Gently Johnny' sequence where he sings his vocal parts on camera.

Together with his assistant Gary Carpenter, Giovanni formed a one off band to perform the music for the film. This band were originally called Lodestone. By the time the film saw a cinematic release ( in its infamous shortened form ), the band had changed their name to Magnet. This was due to another group already using the Lodestone name.

The members of Magnet were as follows:

Paul Giovanni -
vocals, guitar

Gary Carpenter -
piano, recorders, fife, ocarina, nordic lyre, organ, etc

Peter Brewis -
recorders, jewish harp, harmonica, bass guitar,etc

Michael Cole -
concertina, harmonica, basoon

Andrew Tompkins -

Ian Cutler -

Bernard Murray ( replaced mid production by Michael Fry ) -

Female vocals were performed by Leslie Mackie, Rachel Verney, and Sally Present ( and Annie Ross, depending on who you listen to ). Session trumpet player John Hammond also played, with  additional trumpeters supplied by the London Symphony Orchestra. Actor Walter Carr also sang his part of 'the schoolmaster'. 'The Wicker Man Choir' are also credited on the soundtrack!

Paul Giovanni had intended to release an LP of Magnet songs from The Wicker Man. However, this project was shelved. The first release of a soundtrack album didn't arrive until the 1990s when Trunk Records issued a CD of music sourced from a music-and-effects reel for the short version of the film. Such reels are created in order that non-English speaking countries can create their own dialog and yet retain the original film's score and sound effects. Although the album was welcomed by fans, it was far from ideal due to the source from which the music had been lifted. Finally in 2002, Silva Screen Records released the recently located studio versions of the songs that were originally intended for Giovanni's aborted 1970s album. The Silva Screen issue is by far the better of the two releases. Completists are also interested to obtain the earlier version as it does have some incidental music which is unique to this issue.

Many of the songs featured on the soundtrack were adapted ( or at least influenced by ) traditional folk material. This article should go some way to documenting the influences behind each of the songs.

The lyrics featured here (  together in their complete form for possibly the first time ) represent the longest available version of the recordings that were featured in the The Wicker Man.

Sadly, Paul Giovanni died in New York in 1990 of AIDS.

Opening Title

The first song heard over the opening credits of The Wicker Man is a rendition of a ballad written by  the Scottish poet Robert Burns ( 1759-1796 ).  The Highland Widow's Lament  is believed to be inspired by the massacre at Glen Coe ( whose name translates into modern English as the 'narrow creek' mentioned in the lyrics ). The massacre occurred in 1692 when approximately forty members of the Macdonald clan were slaughtered.

The Wicker Man version of the track is not performed exactly as Burns originally wrote the ballad. Instead, it is derived from the many modern English translations of Burns' work. The rendition that appears in the film is sung by Leslie Mackie.

Lyrics -

O, I am come to the low country
Upon, upon a dream
Without a penny in my purse
To buy a meal for me

One time I had a hundred sheep
Upon, upon a dream
Skippin' on yon narrow creek
And growin' wool for me

Corn Rigs

This  is the second piece of music heard over the film's opening titles. Like its predecessor, it is based on a ballad written in the late 1700s  by Robert Burns. The original song is also known as 'Rigs O' Barley'. The lyrics are, once again, derived from modern English translations based on the original Scottish text. The musical accompaniment  in the Wicker Man version is likely to have been composed especially for the film. The piece is sung by Paul Giovanni.

Lyrics -

It was upon a Lammas night
When corn rigs are bonnie
Beneath the moon's unclouded light
I held awhile to Annie
The time went by with careless heed
'Till 'tween the late and early
With small persuasion she agreed
To see me through the barley

Corn rigs and barley rigs and
Corn rigs are bonnie
I'll not forget that happy night
Among the rigs with Annie

The sky was blue, the wind was still
The moon was shining clearly
I set her down with right goodwill
Among the rigs o' barley
I kent her heart was my own
I loved her most sincerely
I kissed her o'er and e'er again
Among the rigs of barley

The Landlord's Daughter

This is a largely original composition created for The Wicker Man. Paul Giovanni stated to Cinefanstatique Magazine that it was losely based on an 18th century song.  This is believed to have been adapted, at least partly, by writer Anthony Shaffer's brother Peter.

On screen, the piece is sung by the cast who performed it on set during filming. Another version, with a studio recorded vocal was also made for the aborted 1970s vinyl album with a different set of singers. It is this version that now appears on the 'Silva Screen' issue of the soundtrack CD. One of the song's verses was omitted from the original shortened cinema cut, and therefore the version that appears on the 'Trunk' issue of the soundtrack is missing this verse.

Lyrics -

Much has been said of the strumpets of yore
Of wenches and bawdy house queens by the score
But I sing of a baggage that we all adore
The Landlord's Daughter
You'll never love another
Although she's not the kind of girl to take home
To your mother

Her ale, it is lively and strong to the taste
It is brewed with discretion, never with haste
You can have all you like if you swear not to waste
The Landlord's Daughter
And when her name is mentioned
The parts of every gentleman do stand up
At attention

Now there's Jane of the Blossom and Doll of the Crown
Pretty Kate of the Garter And Star down in town
Fat Dolly who keeps the Red Heart of renown,
But I'll take the Landlord's Daughter

O, nothing can delight so
As does the part that lies between her left toe
And her right toe

Note - the subtitles that accompany the DVD offer different lyrics for the third verse. Rest assured, the subtitles are quite simply wrong! The above lyrics certainly seem closer to what is actually performed.

Gently Johnny

This is another piece based on a traditional folk song, this time believed to date from the medieval period. The Wicker Man director Robin Hardy has ( mistakenly ) claimed on numerous occasions that the piece was written by Robert Burns. The Wicker Man version is sung by Paul Giovanni. It has since been covered by The Sneaker Pimps, among others.

Lyrics -

I put my hand on her knee
And she says do you want to see
I put my hand on her breast
And she says do you want a kiss

Gently gently gently Johnny
Gently Johnny, my jingalo

I put my hand on her thigh
And she says do you want to try
I put my hand on her belly
And she says, do you want to fill me

Maypole Song

This piece is a largely original song written for the film although it is thought to have been based on a traditional piece called 'The Rambling Bog'. Rachel Verney and Sally Presant contribute to the backing vocals. According to the film's associate musical director Gary Carpenter, these two singers feature heavily throughout the soundtrack , but were uncredited. The voice of the on-screen actor Walter Carr is credited on the Silva Screens CD as singing the lead vocal. Maypole Song has since been covered acapella by Medieval Babes under the title 'Summerisle ( The Maypole Song )'.

Lyrics -

In the woods there grew a tree
And a fine, fine tree was he

And on that tree there was a limb
And on that limb there was a branch
And on that branch there was a nest
And in that nest there was an egg
And in that egg there was a bird
And from that bird a feather came
And of that feather was
A bed

And on that bed there was a girl
And on that girl there was a man
And from that man there was a seed
And from that seed there was a boy
And from that boy there was a man
And for that man there was a grave
From that grave there grew
A tree

( on the ) the summerisle summerisle summerisle summerisle

Fire Leap

Once again, this piece is an original composition created for the film. It is sung by Rachel Verney and Sally Presant, possibly among others.

Lyrics -

Take the flame inside you
Burn and burn below
Fire seed and fire feed
To make the baby grow

Take the flame inside you
Burn and burn belay
Fire seed and fire feed
To make the baby stay

Take the flame inside you
Burn and burn belong
Fire seed and fire feed
And make the baby strong

Take the flame inside you
Burn and burn belie
Fire seed and fire feed
To make the baby cry

Take the flame inside you
Burn and burn begin
Fire seed and fire feed
To make the baby King

The Tinker of Rye

This song was allegedly recorded on the film's set and features a vocal duet of Christopher Lee and Diane Calento. The pianist on the track is Gary Carpenter. The ballad is said to be based upon an obscure traditional piece entitled 'The Ram Of Derby'. The full version of the song does not feature in any version of the film itself and can only be heard in its entirety on the 'Silva Screen' issue of the soundtrack album.

Lyrics -

There was a tinker lived of late
Who walked the streets of Rye
He bore his pack upon his back
Patches and plugs did cry
O I have brass within my bag
My hammer's full of metal.
And as to skill I well can clout
And mend a broken kettle

A maiden did this tinker meet
And to him boldly say
For sure, my kettle hath much need
If you will pass my way
She took the tinker by the hand
And led him to her door
Says she my kettle I will show
And you can clout it sure

For patching and plugging is his delight
His work goes forward day and night

Fair maid says he
Your kettle's cracked
The cause is plainly told
There hath so many nails been drove
Mine own could not take hold
Says she it hath endured some knocks
and more it may i know
I'm sure a large large nail will hold
If it was struck in so

For patching and plugging is his delight
His work goes forward, day and night

Willow's Song

Willow's Song is easily the most famous of all the musical pieces that were performed in The Wicker Man. The track is an original composition. The song is occasionally referred to as 'The Siren Song' or similar.

According to the film's associate musical director Gary Carpenter, the screen version was sung by Rachel Verney. Some believe, however, that it was Scottish jazz singer Annie Ross who sang the piece. Ross is believed by a many, including Ekland herself, to have voiced the Willow character's dialog, although director Robin Hardy claims that this is untrue.

An alternate version also exists in which Leslie Mackie ( who played Daisey in the film ) is reported to have sang to the same backing tracks. It is this version which is featured on the 'Silva Screens' soundtrack CD. In the original shortened release of the film, the song was hacked to bits via some of the worst editing cuts known to mankind. The cuts are not even on-beat and make no musical sense whatsoever! Sadly, it is this version which appeared on the 'Trunk' issue of the soundtrack. In summary, the full recording of the film version appears on neither CD.

Interestingly, an instrumental version , with a new arrangement replacing the vocal line was released by Silva Screen as a downloadable MP3 via their website. The writer's thoughts are that this version was recorded in the 1970s for Giovanni's aborted album. This is, however, unconfrirmed.

Willow's Song has been covered by numerous artists including Death In June, Doves, and the Sneaker Pimps. Bizarrely, all three of these versions are based on the hacked-to-bits version and the artists had to compensate around the bad editing. Even more bizarre, is the fact that the Sneaker Pimps got permission from Brit Ekland to use a sample of Willow's voice in order for them to credit the track as 'featuring' the actress. Brit's voice did not appear in the film in either dialog or song! The Sneaker Pimps version was released under the title 'How Do'.

Lyrics ( full version ) -

Heigh ho
Who is there ?
No one but me my dear.

Please come
Say how do the things I'll give to you?

A stroke as gentle as a feather
I'll catch a rainbow from the sky and tie the ends together

Heigh ho
I am here.
Am I not young and fair ?

Please come
Say how do the things I'll show to you?

Would you have a wond'rous sight?
The midday sun at midnight

Fair maid, white and red,
Comb you smooth and stroke your head

How a maid can milk a bull
And every stroke a bucketful


Although not a song, the music played by the the islanders during the May Day parade is an original arrangement of a traditional ballad entitled 'Willy O' Winsbury'. It is however, presented in The Wicker Man as an instrumental, with an original and brilliant arrangement.

( Instrumental )


The scene towards the end of the film where Howie is anointed by Willow and the librarian features a short original piece played by Gary Carpenter on a jewish harp, as can be seen on screen during the sequence. This is a reprise of a musical theme featured earlier in the movie when Howie examines the ruined church. Although voiced by Brit Eckland and Ingrid Pitt on screen,  the vocals were performed by Rachel Verney and Sally Present.

Lyrics -

Sleep close and fast

Summer Is Icumen In

The final song in the film is widely recognized as the oldest song in the English language and is believed to date back to the early 1200s. In The Wicker Man, the song is performed by the islanders over the melody of 'Willy O' Winsbury' which also served the basis for the 'Procession' theme. Once again, screen writer Anthony Shaffer's brother Peter is believed to have been involved in the lyric adaptaion for The Wicker Man's version. The full length recording of the piece, with an extended instrumental opening, can only be heard on the Silva Screens issue of the soundtrack album.

Lyrics -

Summer is Icumen in
Loudly sing cuckoo
Grows the seed and blows the mead
And springs the wood anew
Sing cuckoo
Ewe bleats harshly after lamb
Cows after calves make moo
Bullock stamps and deer champs
Now shrilly sing cuckoo
Cuckoo, cuckoo
Wild bird are you
Be never still cuckoo

In addition to the film's songs, much of the instrumental score was similarly sourced from traditional material. For instance, according to Gary Carpenter, the end titles music was adapted from a Bulgarian folk song. The 'Chop Chop' music uses the English nursery rhyme 'Oranges And Lemons' as its source.

The piece of music heard while Howie is in the library is an arrangement of the renaissance piece entitled 'Mirie It Is'.

Howie's last minute search for Rowan utilizes the traditional Scottish piece Robertson's Rant. An Irish folk tune Drowsie Maggie ( and its vocal counterpart 'What Shall We Do With The Drunken Sailor' ) is also adapted during this sequence.

The soundtrack CD for The Wicker Man is currently available on Silva Screen Recordings and features the following tracklisting.

1.  Corn Rigs
2.  The Landlord s Daughter
3.  Gently Johnny
4.  Maypole
5.  Fire Leap
6.  The Tinker Of Rye
7.  Willow s Song
8.  Procession
9.  Chop Chop
10. Lullaby
11. Festival - Mirie It Is / Sumer Is A-Cumen In
Incidental music from 'The Wicker Man'
12. Opening Music / Loving Couples / The Ruined Church
13  Masks / The Hobby Horse
14  Searching For Rowan
15. Appointment with The Wicker Man
16  Sunset

Much of the incidental pieces towards the end of the CD are lifted from the audio track of the film itself, rather than studio sources. The 'appointment' track is Lord Summerisle's dialog to Howie from the film's closing scenes. This version of the soundtrack is of an extremely high quality and the writer recommends it any fan of The Wicker Man's music.

Notes - This article was written by Declan McCafferty. Many thanks are due to Gary Carpenter's excellent article which can be found at Credit should also go to John ( lipwak ) for his extensive documenting of the music of The Wicker Man, via the yahoo group located at