Must Have Irish Playlist
Irish music is big in my house, but every March, it goes through the roof. I have been Irish dancing since I was 12 and my daughter started when she was 5. So as March 17th gets closer, our schedules are filled with dance shows to coordinate, parades to walk in, soda bread to make, and corned beef to eat…all with the background soundtrack of bands like The Young Dubliners, The Pogues, and The Waterboys.
There is a difference between “music from Ireland” and “Irish Music”. Irish music incapsulates emotion more than any other music form. It comes from an ancient place and at its heart, Irish music is always about love…love/loss of a woman or a man or love/loss of country….and love/loss of whiskey and beer, but we’re gonna focus on love. Music from Ireland is influenced by Irish music even if it’s about a non-Irish topic.
I have compiled a “March Must Have” playlist on Spotify and you can listen to it here. Those that are not Spotify compliant (really, it’s time), I have tried to link youtube videos. The list is not anywhere near exhaustive or complete. I chose some songs because of the band, some because of the subject matter and some because they mean something special to me. They are in no particular order.
“Fisherman’s Blues” (really, the best version)
“How Long Will I Love You”
(featured in the film “About Time”…check it out)
“The Whole Of The Moon”
While teaching Irish Literature in Mountain View, Ca, I found an Irish radio station that could be streamed through my classroom speaker system (it was a really nice school). This was in 2002…before Pandora and Spotify and so streaming of any kind was pretty awesome. “The Whole of the Moon” was popular on that station and when I hear it, I am automatically thrown back to the memory of correcting poem projects strewn across the floor.
“The Galway Girl”
Originally written by Steve Earle in 2000, Mundy’s studio version soared to number one on the Irish Singles Chart in 2008 and stayed there for five weeks…that’s right 2008…only 8 years ago.
Popularized by the movie Once, Glen Hansard was the lead in the movie and the lead singer of The Frames. See why you should watch that movie here.
“Back Home In Derry”
Named Ireland's greatest living musician in RTÉ's 2007 People of the Year Awards, Moore is beloved by musicians in Ireland. Written by Bobby Sands, an Irish republican political prisoner, and member of the Provisional IRA, who went on a hunger strike in 1981 with nine other prisoners in protest to being removed from “Special Category Status” within the prison system. All ten men died while on Hunger Strike which gained international media coverage for the republican cause
“Dirty Old Town”
This song is actually about a town in England, but was unofficially adopted by Dublin.
I first heard this song as part of an album created to help the Omagh Fund to raise money for the families of the 30 people who lost their lives in the Omagh bombing on August 15, 1998.
The 4 Of Us
(from 2015 w/ The Ulster Orchestra for St. Patrick's Day)
(featuring Declan on vocals during a reunion concert)
***Disclosure…Our families have been close friends since I was a baby.***
From Newry, County Down, Northern Ireland; Brendan, Paul and Declan Murphy formed this band in the 1980s (with another friend) and quickly hit the charts with their single “Mary.” Performances at Glastonbury followed and they have since been a mainstay in Irish music (even though Paul left the band and there can be anywhere from 2-6 people performing under The 4 Of Us brand.)
“Songs for the Tempted”, the album from which the first two songs listed appear, went double platinum in Ireland and won Best Album of the Year at the Irish Music Awards (defeating U2). I once saw Brendan joke at a performance in Dublin that “Mary” could be heard everyday on Grafton Street from various buskers.
“Sunlight” was released during that same period I was teaching Irish Literature, and I used to blast the song (and album) in the mornings before school started. It is a song that will never sound dated to me. In 2003, the single was voted fourth in a poll of “the best Irish single ever”on the Irish radio station Today FM.
(FYI there is a new album coming out it 2016)
“The Boys Are Back In Town”
An Irish export that gained traction in the US. Not my favorite, but this song seemed important to include.
The Irish Rovers
I have vivid memories of my Mom cleaning house on Fridays while blaring The Irish Rovers. “The Unicorn” is typically considered a child’s song and there are hand movement to go along with it. Just a few years ago, I was able to come up on stage at a local Irish pub and perform the hand movements while the singer sang along…still got it!
Gered Murphy (father to the afore mentioned brothers of The 4 Of Us) would always put this song on and dance around the living room with me. It didn’t matter if I was 2 or 22, if it was in a Los Angles or their Newry living room…we always danced to this song. I will always cherish that memory.
Quintessentially late 90s music, this group was part of the soundtrack of the period that I lived in Dublin. Unfortunately, the band also involves a memory of a Rose of Tralee contestant in LA doing sign language to their song “Runaway” …you can only imagine the sign she used for the lyrics “make love upon the floor”…in front of a packed ballroom at the Los Angeles Biltmore Hotel….cannot scrub it from my mind.
The Young Dubliners
“Rocky Road To Dublin”
“Change The World”
A Los Angles based Irish folk rock band, they started on the Irish Fair circuit in the the mid 1990s. I have been a fan since I was 12 when my parents bought me one of their shirts that said, “The Young Dubs: They’ll Folk You Up.” They are involved in some of my favorite memories of my young adult life…I used my first fake ID to get into one of their Santa Monica shows and George Clooney bought me a beer at an Irish fundraising event where they headlined (side note, he urged my fiends and I not to get married until we were much older…and yes, he was as lovely as you have imagined).
“Wind That Shakes the Barley”
I feel like these guys don’t really need an introduction. I am in desperate search for their performance on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, around 2011/12 where while performing, they could not contain their excitement and one of the members yelled, “Yabba Dabba Do.” The memory still makes my husband and I crack up.
The Clancy Brothers
“Tim Finnegan’s Wake”
Another folk band blasted in my childhood home, Tim Finneagan’s Wake is a funny look at what can happen when you drink too much whiskey. This live version has a funny intro.
“Johnny Jump Up/Morrison’s Jig”
Another Los Angles based folk band. They gained fame when they played in the movie Titanic (they were the band that that played below deck during the lower class party when Rose dances up on her tippy toes).
“If I should Fall From Grace With God”
“A Pair of Brown Eyes”
Still touring, The Pogues are not only known for some famous folk covers, but the two original pieces above…of course they are also known for the lead singer's scratchy voice and bad teeth.
Originally written by the Irish poet/writer Brendan Behan, known for rarely being sober. The song can have 5 verses or 20, depending on the mood of the singer.