We've Got Your St. Patrick's Day Song Playlist Covered With These Irish Tunes
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No matter what your plans are for this St. Patrick's Day — you can be planning an Irish feast (complete with Irish desserts), making green beer to serve your guests, watching one the best Irish movies of all-time or taking part in one of the honored St. Patrick's Day traditions — you're going to need a soundtrack to go with it. And what better than music from the Emerald Isle?
Whether you're looking for classic folk tunes, Irish rock, amped-up punk songs or a combo of all of the above, these are the best Irish songs to add to your St. Patrick's Day playlist. There are famous Irish artists, including U2, Van Morrison and Thin Lizzy. There are songs that have stood the test of time, getting reinterpreted by different bands and ensembles throughout the years. And there are songs with just the merest hint of an Irish connection, but they're great when you want to rock out. Add these to your playlist, and get ready to dance (and no, it doesn't have to be a jig).
1. "Molly Malone" — The Dubliners
One of the most famous Irish tunes of all, The Dubliners' "Molly Malone" tells the tale of a fishmonger who sells "cockles and mussels” in the streets of Dublin. The song — which dates back to the 1800s — was even named the unofficial anthem of Dublin, where you can find a statue of Molly Malone herself!
2. "God Save Ireland" — The Wolfe Tones
This ditty is so jaunty it's easy to miss that it's actually a song that honors three rebel men known as the Manchester Martyrs. Afterward, the song was considered the unofficial anthem for Irish nationalists and the theme song for the Celtic Football Club.
3. "An Irish Pub Song" — The Rumjacks
The Celtic punk rock band may hail from Australia, but their viral hit pays homage to Irish-styled pubs throughout the world, making it the perfect soundtrack for any and all St. Paddy's Day celebrations.
4. "Grace" — Aoife Scott, Róisín O & Danny O'Reilly
This song is inspired by a real-life couple, Grace Gifford and Joseph Plunkett, who were married in 1916. But while that may sound sweet, and the melody is lovely, it's actually a sad tale: Gifford married Plunkett in the prison chapel at Kilmainham Gaol just a few hours before he was executed for his participation in the Easter Rising.
5. "Drunken Lullabies" — Flogging Molly
This upbeat track from Irish-American punk band Flogging Molly will have you rocking out all day. Music critic Tom Semioli said it best when he wrote in a review, "After one listen, you'll probably wish you were Irish."
6. "Saints and Sinners" — Paddy Casey
Paddy Casey has been on the Irish music scene since he started busking on the streets of Galway at age 12, but this may be the song he's best known for. He even recorded a version of the song with the Dublin Gospel Choir.
7. “The Wind That Shakes the Barley/The Reel With the Beryle” — The Chieftains
While you can find many versions of this Irish ballad with lyrics — written by Robert Dwyer Joyce about a man going off to fight in the 1798 rebellion — this instrumental by The Chieftains might be a better way to go if you're looking for something with a more uplifting feel to it.
8. "Where the Streets Have No Name" — U2
Bono wrote this song while visiting Ethiopia after hearing a story about Belfast, the capital of Northern Ireland. The singer wanted to challenge the idea that a person’s religion and income could be guessed by the street they lived on, and instead encourage unity by forgetting about street names. (For more of U2 facing tough Irish history head on, see "Sunday Bloody Sunday.")
9. "Star of the County Down" — The Irish Rovers
A tale of love at first sight, this song is about a man who spots a woman so lovely, he imagines her "a smiling bride, by my own fireside." Play it for your own "sweet colleen."
10. "The Boys Are Back In Town" — Thin Lizzy
Guess who just got back today? This unlikely hit was part of the Irish hard-rock band's 1976 Jailbreak album, helping the band earn its first gold record. And yet, the band almost didn't include it on the album — the record-company management had to tell them how catchy it was.
11. "The Irish Rover" — The Dubliners & The Pogues
For the band's 25th anniversary in 1987, The Dubliners thought it was the perfect time to collaborate with "Fairytale of New York" band The Pogues for this Irish folk song. It has been sung by at least a dozen artists since its original release in 1960.
12. "Zombie" — The Cranberries
Lead singer Dolores O’Riordan was deeply affected by the 1993 IRA bombing in Warrington, and wrote it in memory of the two young victims — Johnathan Ball and Tim Parry. The song took the band in a different direction protesting terrorism, and has become a widely recognized anthem.
13. "The Men Behind the Wire" — The Clancy Brothers
This rousing song was written about Operation Demetrius in the '70s, which saw lots of Irishmen arrested an imprisoned by the English. It encourages folks to "stand behind the men behind the wire."
14. "I'm Shipping up to Boston" — Dropkick Murphys
The 2006 Academy Award-winning Best Picture, The Departed, helped the band and song gain popularity. Considered Celtic punk, it sold more than a million digital copies, and is certified double platinum.
15. "On Raglan Road" — Luke Kelly
In 1966, famous poet Patrick Kavanagh approached singer Luke Kelly at a Dublin pub and asked if his love poem Raglan Road could be adapted into a song. It is set to the tune of “The Dawning of the Day,” a traditional Gaelic song.
16. "Alternative Ulster" — Stiff Little Fingers
This punk song is about being young in Belfast, and having that feeling where there's nothing much going on. Turn it up if you want to reconnect to those old feelings of youthful ennui.
17. "Nothing Compares 2 U" — Sinéad O'Connor
This song hit No. 1 on the Billboard Top 100 and stayed on the charts for 21 weeks, making it synonymous with Sinéad O'Connor in the United States. But O'Connor didn't create the song herself; it was written by Prince and first recorded by his protégé band, The Family. But while theirs is also bluesy and heartfelt, if you listen to you can see why O'Connor heartbreaking version was the one that went to the top.
18. "Dirty Old Town" — The Pogues
The 1949 folk song is associated with many Irish artists, including The Dubliners and U2. In fact, it was written by Englishman Ewan MacColl, who memorialized his hometown of Salford, near Manchester. Now, the Pogues' version of the song is the walk-on music for Salford City FC.
19. "Seven Drunken Nights" — The Dubliners
What began as a spoken tale became widely known when The Dubliners shared it in 1967. It reached number one in Ireland and number seven in the U.K. The tongue-in-cheek song is about a man who comes home drunk night after night and notices different signs of his wife’s lover, but chooses to believe her terrible excuses instead of facing the truth.
20. "Orinoco Flow" — Enya
No list of Irish songs would be complete without the etherial voice of Irish singer Enya. And while it was written about a river in South America, it'll make you want to sail away to the Emerald Isle.
21. "Brown Eyed Girl" — Van Morrison
Considered one of the signature songs by Irish music legend Van Morrison, the catchy tune hit number 14 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1967. But its popularity didn’t stop several radio stations from banning it because of the line, “Making love in the green grass.”
22. "Take Back the City" — Snow Patrol
The city this Scottish/Irish indie rock band is referring to, in this case, is Belfast in Northern Ireland. But the song can also apply to anyone who has mixed feelings about their home town.
23. "Whiskey in the Jar" — Thin Lizzy
Since the 1950s, a number of artists have performed this Irish song — most incongruously Metallica, who in 1999 won a Best Hard Rock Performance Grammy for their take on the tune.
24. "The Rocky Road to Dublin" — The High Kings
The High Kings’ folky music style brought to life the 19th century Irish song about a man who travels from Liverpool to his home in Ireland. Along the way, he comes across beautiful women, thieves — and even spends time with pigs at sea.
25. "Beautiful Day" — U2
You don’t have to be an Irish music aficionado, or even a dedicated U2 fan, to recognize this 2000 hit. The optimistic track won three Grammy Awards for Song of the Year, Record of the Year, and Best Rock Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocals. The helped skyrocket All That You Can't Leave Behind, the album it was featured on, to multi-platinum status.
26. "Song for Ireland" — Luke Kelly
An ode to the beautiful hills of Ireland, Luke Kelly used his distinct voice to give the masses a song in 1985 they could forever sing with pride and joy.
27. "The Blower's Daughter" — Damien Rice
Damien Rice left his first single for listeners to speculate who he was singing about, leading many to believe it's about his clarinet teacher's daughter. (Scandal!)
28. "The Long Black Veil" — Mick Jagger and The Chieftans
This country song isn't Irish in origin, and it's been reinterpreted in many styles, including folk, roots and rock. Mick Jagger and The Chieftans add an Irish twist to their version of the tale, about a man who is falsely accused of murder, but refuses to give an alibi because it would get his married lover in trouble.
29. "Galway Girl" — Ed Sheeran
On St. Patrick's Day 2017, Sheeran announced his new song which was immediately loved, reaching number two in U.K. charts and number one in the Irish single charts.
30. "The Galway Girl" — Steve Earle
Here's another tribute to a lass from Western Ireland. But while Steve Earle's "The Galway Girl" has origins much closer to Nashville than Galway, it can still be appreciated by anyone with whose hair is black and eyes are blue.
31. "Lonesome Boatman" — Finbar & Eddie Furey
There are no words to this Irish folk song, but you'll really feel like you're at sea when you hear the haunting melody on the tin whistle.
32. "C'est La Vie" — B*Witched
Although this '90s Irish girl group's debut single had a rocky start, the upbeat tune topped the charts throughout Europe and U.S. In 2013, the singers admitted the song was actually about sex, but if you have little ones at your St. Paddy's Day party, the themes will probably go over their heads.
33. "Danny Boy" — Elvis Presley
This mournful ballad has been heard around the world for over a century. After it was written in Great Britain, it made its way to Ireland, and was brought across the pond by migrants coming to the States. The song has been played at several funerals, including, President JFK, Princess Diana and Elvis Presley's.
34. "Fisherman's Blues" — The Waterboys
If this tune from this Scottish/Irish band sounds familiar, you might have heard in in a movie like Good Will Hunting, Waking Ned Devine or Dom Hemingway. Give it another spin and see if it doesn't get stuck in your head.
35. "The Fields of Athenry" — Paddy Reilly
Set during the Irish Potato Famine, the song tells the tale of a man who is caught stealing food for his hungry family, and is sent away to serve his punishment in a foreign land. Paddy Reilly wasn't the first artist to cover it, but his version was number four on Irish charts for 72 weeks straight! You can often hear Irish sports fans singing the song at matches.
36. "Only Time" — Enya
Many may not know this song by its title, but Enya's angelic voice makes it hard to forget. The Irish singer's lyrics became a symbol of hope after the tragic 9/11 attacks, and has even been featured on a Friends episode.
37. "The Foggy Dew" — The Chieftains & Sinead O'Connor
Sinead O’Connor lent her voice for a mournful rendition of the traditional Irish ballad with The Chieftains. The song is about the Easter Rising of 1916 and encourages Irishmen to fight for Ireland.
38. "I Don't Like Mondays" — The Boomtown Rats
Bob Geldof may be best known for writing charity singles like Band Aid's "Do They Know It's Christmas?" and putting on mega-concerts like Live Aid, but before all that he was a member of the Irish band the Boomtown Rats. Legend has it that this song was inspired by a school shooting in 1979. When asked why she did it, the 16-year-old perpetrator said, "I don't like Mondays."
39. "Riverdance" — Bill Wheelan
It sounds like a cliché, but "Riverdance" still holds the record for the most weeks in the No. 1 spot on the Irish Singles Chart. It's holding steady at 18 weeks — the closest competitor, which topped off 15 weeks, is "Despacito."
40. "Breathless" — The Corrs
The Corrs were a band known for blending pop-rock with traditional Irish sounds. "Breathless" is their biggest stateside hit, spending 20 weeks on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. And, if you want a mid-2000s flashback, you might remember it from the movie The Wedding Date.
41. "Carrickfergus" — Jim McCann
This beautiful folk song is about a far-away love, so listen with that special someone. The Loudon Wainwright III version of this was used in the finale of Boardwalk Empire.
42. "Try a Little Tenderness" — The Commitments
Sure, The Commitments aren't a real band — they're a movie band from the film of the same name, a story about an underdog group of musicians in Dublin that wants to perform soul music. As a result, the soundtrack has plenty of covers to choose from, including Mack Rice's "Mustang Sally," Aretha Franklin's "Chain of Fools" and this slow tune made famous by the Ray Noble Orchestra.
43. "The Auld Triangle" — The Inside Llewyn Davis Soundtrack
This song is said to be about life in Dublin's Mountjoy Prison, and is a motto for fans of the Dublin Bohemian Football Club, which plays near the institution's grounds. Like many Irish songs, there have been lots of interpretations over the years, but our favorite is featured in the film Inside Llewyn Davis. The Punch Brothers perform it a capella with Marcus Mumford and Justin Timberlake — who jumped in at the last minute to sing the bass part!
44. "Funky Céilí (Bridie's Song)" — Black 47
Black 47 is an Irish-American rock band, its name being a reference to the year of the Irish famine. This song is notable for the way it combines rock elements with traditional Irish instruments.
45. "Four Green Fields" — Sarah Moore
This song is a tribute to Ireland's beauty, with the "four green fields" representing the country's four provinces. Some of the lyrics were inspired by Irish poet William Butler Yeats.
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