March 10, 2015
I’ll say it bluntly: If you’re celebrating Saint Patrick’s Day without an Irish drinking song playlist, you’re doing it wrong.
I’m sure the Irish drinking song has a long and rich history, but let’s be honest: Most of us don’t care about the “noble tradition” so much as we enjoy that rollicking accent, Irish humor and getting happily tipsy. Despite the fact that most Irish drinking songs have dead-depressing lyrics, you can’t help but feel unreasonably cheerful when you hear them — especially, as I stated before, you’ve gotten happily tipsy while listening.
Now, I happen to be an amateur connoisseur of Irish drinking songs, and my boyfriend has a wonderful knack for finding great versions of some of the best ones. I am far from an expert on the subject, but if you need a wee bit o’ help starting your drinking song playlist, I’m more than happy to lend a hand.
1. "Finnegan’s Wake," by The High Kings — This one is a staple of many an Irish drinking song playlist. Tim Finnegan falls off a ladder and his family members, believing him dead, carry him into bed and rally the community for his wake — where they proceed to mourn, get outrageously drunk and, in true Irish fashion, start a brawl. There’s “lots of fun at Finnegan’s wake” in any version of the song, but The High Kings’ iteration is infectiously lively and catchy.
2. "Whiskey in the Jar," by The High Kings — Another must-have on your playlist, this one’s an adventure tale of a highwayman who robs a rich army captain and then gets duped and betrayed by a pretty girl. Like any good Irish song, it’s got plenty of fun innuendo if you’re willing to look for it. “She stole away me rapier” — did she now? Maybe you should have kept it in your pants — er, sheath. Anyway.
3. "The Old Dun Cow," by Harry O’Donoghue — The local pub catches fire! What do you do? Most people would evacuate, or help put out the fire. In this song, a group of men barricade the cellar while it’s unguarded and try to drink it dry, racing the fire (and, later, the firemen). You thought you were good at keg stands? You’ve got nothing on these guys. Harry O'Donoghue is one of the few artists I can find who actually has a recorded version of this fun little ditty, with the added bonus that he's local and has performed here in the Boro several times. He's a Savannah-based Irish musician, a local folk favorite and a member of the advisory board for GSU's Centre for Irish Studies. Keep an eye out for him the next time he's in town and ask him to perform this song. Remember to shout "MACINTYRE!"
4. "Seven Drunken Nights," by Celtic Thunder — The fellow in the song stumbles home drunk for a week and discovers items clearly belonging to another man strewn around his house. What makes it wonderful, however, is that in each chorus, the wife whips up a completely outrageous lie to convince her husband he doesn’t see what he thinks he sees.
“What are these boots doing under the bed? These aren't my boots.”
“Dear, those are flowerpots.”
“They have laces.”
“…Yes. Yes they do.”
5. "Space Shanty," by The Senate — This obviously isn’t a traditional Irish drinking song, but it’s done in a similar style. I wrote about The Senate’s hilarious lyrics several months ago, and I stand by what I said: “Space Shanty” is clever, funny and perfect for your intoxicated shenanigans. Reach for the whiskey, boys. Reach for the skies.
6. "Another Irish Drinking Song," by Da Vinci’s Notebook — Again, clearly not an authentic Irish song, but its shameless riffing on the tradition is riotously funny. All the verses are full of Irish stereotypes, puns and allusions to other songs or stories. Not that you need to get the references to enjoy the song. My favorite line: “Irony is what befell my great-grand-uncle Sam. / He choked upon the very last potato in the land.” Added bonus: You probably heard this song most recently as part of the Despicable Me 2 movie, and you won't believe who was singing it.
There are, of course, more Irish drinking songs than there are redheads in Ireland, but this list should suffice to get you started. You’re welcome — and have fun!
(Note: This very silly little article went through a round of additions after the editor realized she had included a local artist on the list completely without realizing it. While she was gleefully adding notes to the "Old Dun Cow" entry, she added the Despicable Me 2 trivia just for kicks. This has been a public service announcement.)