We may not celebrate St. Patrick’s Day with as much pomp and gusto as they do in eastern cities with large Irish populations, but we still know how to guzzle a green beer like a champ. In preparation for a Friday night St. Patrick’s Day, here are some of my favorite Irish songs that will help amp you up for a night of kissing the blarney stone.
“Drunken Lullabies” by Flogging Molly
Among the best of the modern punk Celtic bands, Flogging Molly’s endlessly enthusiastic songs are great foreplay for a night of pub hopping. This seven-piece Irish-American band has been playing their infectious tunes for over 20 years, and rumor has it that they are in the studio working on a forthcoming album to be released at some point in 2017.
In “Drunken Lullabies,” Flogging Molly sings about common themes in Irish music: drinking, poverty, politics, drinking, memories and… drinking.
Notable line: “Cause we find ourselves in the same old mess / singin’ drunken lullabies.”
“Shipping Up To Boston” by Dropkick Murphys
Like Flogging Molly, the Dropkick Murphys have been doing the Celtic punk rock thing for a couple of decades. Based out of Quincy, Mass., the band broke through with the hit song “Shipping Up To Boston,” which was featured on Martin Scorsese’s Academy-Award winning film “The Departed.”
Known for raucous live performances, Dropkick Murphys’ just released their ninth studio album, “11 Short Stories of Pain & Glory” in January.
The lyrics to “Shipping Up To Boston” are actually based on an unpublished Woody Guthrie poem. The band was given the honor to go through Guthrie’s archives by a family member and picked out a song or two of unpublished lyrics, landing on the poem in question simply because it had the word “Boston” in it.
Notable line: “I’m a sailor peg / And I’ve lost my leg / Climbing up the top sails / I lost my leg! / I’m shipping up to Boston whoa / I’m shipping up to Boston whoa / I’m shipping up to Boston whoa… to find my wooden leg.”
“Whiskey in the Jar” by Various Artists
Who hasn’t covered this song in the lexicon of Celtic music? The Dubliners are perhaps the band that brought this song back into popular culture. Their recording is often cited as the most traditional sounding of the hundreds of recordings. Other notable versions include the rocking cover by Thin Lizzy, the jam band treatment by the Grateful Dead and the folk version by The Highwaymen.
“Whiskey in the Jar” is an old, old song, written about a highway man who is betrayed by his wife. While the original lyrics speak of Irish locales and people, the song has often been covered by U.S. bands, who changed some lyrics to place the location in the South.
Notable lyrics: “Now there’s some take delight in the carriages a-rollin’ / and others take delight in the hurling and the bowling / but I take delight in the juice of the barley / and courting pretty fair maids in the morning bright and early.”
“Irish Drinking Song” by Buck-O-Nine
I’m not usually a big fan of Ska music, but the band Buck-O-Nine’s version of “Irish Drinking Song” gets me going strong.
The song, which takes its cue from every other Irish song, talks about drinking, fighting, pub crawling and unfaithful women. Though Dropkick Murphys and Flogging Molly are often given credit for this song, sometimes mistakenly called “Drink and Fight,” Buck-O-Nine originally recorded the song on their 1994 album “Songs in the Key of Bree.”
Notable lyrics: “Oh, we’ll drink and drink and drink and drink and drink and drink and fight / and I might see a pretty girl, I’ll sleep with her tonight / yes, we’ll drink and drink and drink and drink and drink and drink and fight!”
“Danny Boy” by Various
At the end of the night of St. Patty’s Day, you have a couple of options. You can pass out, get mean and yell, or wax sentimental and sing a song of sorrow and history. If you’re interested in the latter option, there’s not a more sentimental song to sing while swaying on a street corner than “Danny Boy.”
Written to the tune of “Londonderry Air,” the song was first written by an English lawyer named Frederic Weatherly in 1910. Weatherly gave the song to the vocalist Elsie Griffen, who turned it into one of the most popular songs of the century.
While some in Ireland claim the song is not in fact Irish (it was written in England), the musical story of “Danny Boy” has roots in the terrible 1690 siege of Derry in Northern Ireland. Nonetheless, the song is firmly entrenched in St. Patrick’s Day traditions and will probably be sung every March from here to eternity.
Notable lyrics: “Oh, Danny boy, the pipes, the pipes are calling / From glen to glen, and down the mountain side. / The summer’s gone, and all the roses falling, / It’s you, it’s you must go and I must bide.”