Happy St. Patrick’s Day! Whether you're Irish or not, we hope you're celebrating with some soda bread, corned beef, Irish curry fries, and a good ol' pint of Guinness. And what washes all that tasty food down your gullet? Why, some good ol' Irish songs to blast in the background!
Whether you're creating an Irish pride playlist today, an Irish band looking for tracks to play at your local pub, or a non-Irish person just trying to blend in with the drunken crowd while they're belting out traditional folk songs, we've got you covered. Below are 12 songs we love blasting loud and proud on St. Patty's Day. You'll find songs old and new, rockin' and acoustic, serious and funny, and from Irish artists and non-Irish musicians alike! Without further ado, let's dive into our musical pot of gold.
1. "I'm Shipping Up to Boston" - Dropkick Murphys
C'mon - you can't get through St. Patrick's Day shenanigans without blasting this energetic, sea shanty-esque hit from The Departed! We all know Boston is famous for its pub culture and heavy Irish community, so "I'm Shipping Up to Boston" fits in pretty well with the holiday. Just be careful not to lose your leg while climbing up the topsails when you're celebrating.
2. "Zombie" - The Cranberries
Okay, so maybe this one is a bit depressing when you think about it, but Irish history is important! "Zombie" is The Cranberries' biggest hit, and recounts the violence in “The Troubles”: the decades-long conflict in Northern Ireland between nationalists (mainly self-identified as Irish or Roman Catholic) and unionists (mainly self-identified as British or Protestant). Dolores O'Riordan wrote the song during the band’s English tour in 1993 in memory of two young boys, Tim Parry and Johnathan Ball, who were killed in an IRA bombing in Warrington, England. O'Riordan's vocals on every chorus are chilling. If this song is too heavy for you, we recommend switching to The Cranberries' track "Dreams" instead.
3. "Sunday Bloody Sunday" - U2
Arguably U2's most famous track from the 80s, "Sunday Bloody Sunday" references the Bloody Sunday incident in Derry, Ireland - where British troops shot and killed unarmed civil rights protesters and bystanders in 1972. They were there to rally against internment (imprisonment without trial or evidence) of controversial political figures. In this song, U2 conveys their stance against violence. The first track on U2’s War, "Sunday Bloody Sunday" was responsible for breaking the band into the USA thanks to the heavy rotation the video (from Under a Blood Red Sky) received on MTV.
4. "Drunken Lullabies" - Flogging Molly
This rockin' Flogging Molly song brings all the mischievous vibes! But ultimately, it's an anti-war song about how there's always an endless cycle of battles going on in the world. The "drunken lullabies" in the chorus refers to conflicts and how, once they're over, they're often recounted in pub songs. This tune begs the question...why can't we all just get along and sing together while we're drinking?
5. "An Irish Pub Song" - The Rumjacks
While this song feels like an explosive ode to every Irish pub in the world, it was actually created as a stab at the influx of Irish pubs opening up in Austrailia. And yet, the Paddys have adopted it for St. Patrick's Day! In an interview, Rumjacks lead singer Frankie McLaughlin revealed, "I had the lyrics to ‘Irish Pub’ for a while previous to The Rumjacks and when our guitarist suggested we work it up, I mused that at least the song would at least travel well given that the Irish-themed pub seems almost as prolific as McDonalds restaurants. To see that actually happen though is a hell of a lot of fun, we love to see people from all over the world playing the song in their own way via YouTube, we are always exchanging our favourite clips with each other."
6. "The Humours of Whiskey" - Hozier
That's right! The "Take Me to Church" singer has an Irish pub song of his own. Short and sweet, Hozier's version of the traditional Irish tune "The Humours of Whiskey" is gentle and done in an acapella style. It just...sounds so good on his voice. When he sings "sweeter than honey and stronger than steam", we melt. We wouldn't mind of Hozier dropped a whole album of Irish folk tunes like this.
7. "The Foggy Dew" - Sinead O'Connor & The Chieftains
This gorgeous song performed by Sinead O'Connor and the Chieftains has a rich history. It was originally a folk song that's existed since at least 1840, but the best known version of “The Foggy Dew” was written by priest Charles O’Neill in the wake of the 1916 Easter Rebellion. The conflicted lyrics are about young Irishmen dying for the British cause in WWI when they themselves were not free under British rule, and fighting for independence. Ultimately, it comes to a pro-Irish conclusion: “'Twas better to die 'neath an Irish sky than at Suvla or Sud-El-Bar.” The traditional song has found a new audience in the 21st century, as UFC fighter Conor McGregor would use "The Foggy Dew" as his walk up music before fights. He even had Sinéad O'Connor sing the song before his July 11, 2015 fight against Chad Mendes.
8. "Molly Malone" - The Dubliners & Friends
This cute little love song is about a fishmonger girl named Molly Malone who would wheelbarrow cockles and muscles throughout Dublin. Unfortunately, this song has a tragic end: Molly dies of a fever. However, the speaker claims her ghost is still pushing cockles and muscles through the streets. "Molly Malone" has become the unofficial anthem of the city of Dublin (the city even erected a Molly Malone statue in 1988), and the Dubliners included this beloved tune in their 1977 album Fifteen Years On.
9. "Whiskey In the Jar" - Metallica
If you want your St. Patty's Day to be filled with a little more metal, turn to this rendition of "Whiskey In the Jar" by Metallica. The traditional song is about a rapparee (highwayman) who is betrayed by his wife or lover. It's one of the most widely performed traditional Irish songs in history. Metallica's version cranks up the "party hard" factor. If this track isn't Irish enough for you, you can always listen to the cover by the Dubliners. And if you're looking for more of a 70s rock version of "Whiskey In the Jar", we recommend Thin Lizzy's rendition.
10. "The Irish Rover" - The Pogues feat. the Dubliners
This traditional Irish jig is recorded in a polka-esque style for this rendition by the Pogues and the Dubliners. "The Irish Rover" tells the tale of a ship sailing from Cork to New York City. The song describes the ship's contents, the crew, the rough journey, and the boat's demise all in great detail. We didn't think a song about a shipwreck would be so danceable, but that's "The Irish Rover" for ya!
11. "The Parting Glass" - Ed Sheeran
The song to play as everyone is leaving the pub. We love Ed Sheeran's version of this traditional and popular Irish folk song. It's a bonus track off his album +, and is a testament to Sheeran's Irish heritage. While "The Parting Glass" is often played during Irish funerals (it's subtextually about the mortal goodbye of humans who have lived a good life), it's also a common farewell theme to play at the end of merry social gatherings. Good night and joy be with you all!
12. Every "Irish Drinking Song" From Whose Line Is It Anyway
We're so sorry, we couldn't help ourselves! We end this list with an unconventional recommendation. If you're looking at a zingy 90s reference to throw at your friends - or if you just feel like laughing your drunken butt off on St. Patrick's Day - check out the "Irish Drinking Song" bits from the comedy TV show Whose Line Is It Anyway. Each one is improvised on the spot, and while they can get hilariously messy at times, they will strangely put you in a more Irish mood than you were in before listening. Every final lyric Colin Mochrie delivers is gold.
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