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In the song, "Oh My Darling, Clementine", is "Clementine" actually referencing anyone, or is it just a name the creator used?

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  • I think the answer is lost to history. – faintsignal Aug 28 '17 at 0:24
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It appears to be a remake of several folk songs with the same theme, thus origin of the name is unclear.

A theme of a drowning maiden is quite common in folk songs

From Songfacts.com

"Oh My Darling, Clementine" is a popular American Western folk ballad that is most often attributed to performers like Percy Montrose and Barker Bradford. Its origins however, lie in an 1863 tune by H.S. Thompson called "Down By the River Liv'd a Maiden." Like "Clementine," the song is a mock-serious ode to the narrator's deceased lover, who drowned after she stubbed her toe and fell in the river. Thompson used some pretty clever imagery to conjure an image of our heroine:

*Her lips were like two luscious beefsteaks

Dipp'd in tomato sauce and brine

And like the cashmere goatess covering

Was the fine wool of Clementine*

From wikipedia:

History and origins

Gerald Brenan attributes the melody to originally being an old Spanish ballad in his book South from Granada. It was made popular by Mexican miners during the California Gold Rush. The melody was best known from Romance del Conde Olinos o Niño, a sad love story very popular in Spanish-speaking cultures. It was also given various English texts. No particular source is cited to verify that the song he used to hear in the 1920s in a remote Spanish village was not an old text with new music, but Brenan states in his preface that all facts mentioned in the book have been checked reasonably well.[citation needed]

It is unclear when, where and by whom the song was first recorded in English for others to hear but the first version to reach the Billboard charts was that by Bing Crosby recorded on June 14, 1941 and this briefly touched the No. 20 spot. It was given an up-dated and up-tempo treatment in an arrangement by Hal Hopper and John Scott Trotter. The re-written lyrics include a reference to Gene Autry ("could he sue me, Clementine?") amongst the five swinging verses.

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