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Famous Like Me > Writer > S > Donald Swann

Profile of Donald Swann on Famous Like Me

Name: Donald Swann  
Also Know As:
Date of Birth: 30th September 1923
Place of Birth: Llanelli, Wales, UK
Profession: Writer
From Wikipedia, the free Encyclopedia

Donald Swann (September 30, 1923–March 23, 1994) was a British composer, musician and entertainer. He is best known to the general public for his partnership of writing and performing comic songs with Michael Flanders (see Flanders and Swann).

Donald Swann was born in Llanelli, Wales on September 30, 1923. His father was a Russian doctor, and his mother was a nurse from Transcaspia - they were refugees from the Russian Revolution. The family moved to London, where Swann attended Dulwich Preparatory School and Westminster School (where he first met Michael Flanders).

In 1941 Swann was awarded an exhibition to Christ Church, Oxford, to read modern languages. In 1942 he registered as a conscientious objector and served with the Friends' Ambulance Unit (a Quaker non-combatant unit) in Egypt, Palestine and Greece. After the war, Swann returned to Oxford to read Russian and Modern Greek.

A chance meeting with Flanders in 1948 let to the start of their professional partnership. They began writing songs and light opera, Swann writing the music and Flanders writing the words. Their songs were performed by artists such as Ian Wallace and Joyce Grenfell. They subsequently wrote two two-man revues, At The Drop Of A Hat and At The Drop Of Another Hat, which they performed all over the world until their partnership ended in 1967.

At the same time, Swann was maintaining a prolific musical output, writing the music for several operas and operettas, and setting Tolkien's poems from The Lord of the Rings to music in The Road Goes Ever On collection. After his partnership with Flanders ended, Swann continued to give solo concerts and to write for other singers. He also formed the Swann Singers and toured with them in the 1970s.

In 1992 Donald Swann was diagnosed with cancer, and he died at Trinity Hospice in South London on March 23, 1994. It is estimated that he wrote or set to music nearly 2,000 songs during his long career.


  • Donald Swann. Swann's Way : A life in Song. ISBN 0-85305-329-4

This content from Wikipedia is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article Donald Swann