Who Sings the 'Gentleman Jack' Song? Origins Behind the Theme Tune

After a long three years of waiting, Gentleman Jack Season 2 has finally landed on HBO Max and BBC One. Things have inevitably turned up a notch for the latest season, with Anne Lister and Ann Walker declaring themselves to be wife and wife and making the big move to live together in Shibden Hall.

The entire main cast is back for the second season, as is the show's much-loved theme song, "Gentleman Jack." While the history of Anne Lister is fascinating, the origins of the Gentleman Jack theme song are equally as interesting.

Newsweek has everything you need to know about the theme song below.

Who Sings The Gentleman Jack Song?

The theme song at the end of Gentleman Jack is aptly titled "Gentleman Jack."

The song title derives from the nickname landowner, diarist, and keen traveler Anne Lister had in 19th century Halifax, West Yorkshire. Lister's moniker was owed to her choice to unconventionally dress in all black and take part in "Gentleman" activities that were not the norm for women such as opening and owning her own colliery. She also took great interest in railways, the canals and solo travel.

Gentleman jack season 2 song
The story behind the "Gentleman Jack" theme song is as fascinating as Anne Lister. Suranne Jones is seen above as Gentleman Jack in Season 2 of the HBO and BBC drama. HBO

The people of Halifax were also aware of her attraction to women, but the word "lesbian" was not yet used, so "Jack" sufficed. She was also the recipient of cruel letters and unkindly remarks, bearing the nickname "Gentleman Jack."

Writing in her diary, Lister shared: "The people generally remark, as I pass along, how much I am like a man."

HBO and BBC's theme song for "Gentleman Jack" is performed by Golcar-based folk artists Belinda O'Hooley and Heidi Tidow.

In 2011, they were inspired to compose the track after reading The Secret Diaries of Miss Anne Lister, by Helena Whitbread.

Lister's diaries totaled almost five million words and in them, she detailed everything from her lesbian love affairs to everyday life in West Yorkshire, including her business dealings and her falling outs with her younger sister, Marian.

Her entries about her relationships with women were often written in code, using a mixture of Greek, Latin, mathematical symbols and more. They also detail her "marriage" to a wealthy heiress, Ann Walker, on Easter Sunday in 1834 at Holy Trinity Church.

In one diary entry, Lister wrote: "I love and only love the fairer sex and thus beloved by them in turn, my heart revolts from any other love than theirs."

The song "Gentleman Jack" was featured on O'Hooley and Tidow's 2012 album, The Fragile.Gentleman Jack screenwriter Sally Wainwright approached the married couple known professionally as O'Hooley & Tidow about the track which would go on to become the show's theme song.

Speaking to Yorkshire Live in June 2019, O'Hooley recalled: "One day Sally Wainwright came to a gig we were doing in Hebden Bridge. Afterward, she came up to Heidi and said, 'can I use your song in my new drama?' She was so matter of fact. Heidi was like, 'oh my god, yes!'"

"That was when she just started writing it," she continued. "The drama was going to be called Shibden Hall but she changed the name to Gentleman Jack. When she did that, we thought 'Yes!' It's such a catchy name, and it also meant they were definitely going to be using our song, which made for a celebration."

"It is one of these dreams come true stories," she added.

Since the release of the song "Gentleman Jack", O'Hooley and Tidow released six more studio albums, the most recent being in September 2020 titled Live at St. Georges.

Their other albums include:

  • Silent June
  • The Fragile
  • The Hum
  • Summat's Brewin'
  • Shadows
  • WinterFolk Volume 1
  • Live at St. Georges
  • Unholy Choir

Gentleman Jack Season 2 airs Sundays on BBC 1 and Mondays on HBO Max.