In celebration of St. Patrick’s Day, here’s a curated playlist of Irish music, ranging from very traditional songs to more modern interpretations of old melodies. Enjoy!
Irish music has a long history and is a deeply important part of Irish culture. Though it is often upbeat and made to dance to, Irish music nevertheless often tells tragic stories and ties into the country’s troubled history, which has featured famine, poverty, and revolution. Below, you’ll find the history behind some of these iconic songs.
The Fields of Athenry
This song tells the story of the Great Irish Famine through a tragic, personal lens. The Great Famine took place from 1845 to 1852 when a blight affected the potato crop, Ireland’s staple food at that time. During the 19th century, Ireland was an impoverished nation, leading to this blight having devastating consequences, with it killing approximately one million people and driving even more out of the country to countries such as the United States, helping to establish a strong Irish population across the world. In Fields of Athenry, we see the effects of the famine as a man is imprisoned from his family after stealing food. Separated from his family, he reminisces about the happy childhood he can never return to.
Óró Sé do Beatha ‘Bhaile
Sung in Irish Gaelic, the native language to Ireland which is still spoken in some areas, this song speaks to the long history to revolution that Ireland has had. Colonized by the English in the 1500s, Ireland fought for its independence many times until its eventual victory in 1922. This song, like many others (such as The Rising of the Moon) is a call to arms against the English and a call to reclaim the Irish homeland.
Weigh, Hey, and Up She Rises
Those who were familiar with the Sea Shanty trend earlier this year may recognize this song. A variation of Drunken Sailor, one of the most popular and long-lasting sea shanties, this humorous song recounts how men on a ship may treat a drunk sailor. Like all true sea shanties, Weigh, Hey, and Up She Rises is, at least originally, a work song. Work on a ship was tedious and strenuous, and so shanties were used to pass the time and keep the sailors in a rhythm. In particular, Weigh, Hey, and Up She Rises was likely meant to be sung while raising and lowering the ship’s anchor.
The Spyglass team wishes everyone a good St. Patrick’s Day!