St. Patrick’s Day: A Love Letter to Irish Music

Written by on March 17, 2024

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

Being 33% Irish (thanks, 23andme), and a lover of Irish media (I love you, Ayo Edebiri) I was so excited to compile a list of incredible Irish songs and artists to celebrate this St. Patrick’s Day. For this list specifically, I wanted to compile a group of songs that invoke Irish patriotism at its best: community and resilience. While there are many ‘Irish’ songs out there, to me what puts them on this list is if they can somehow speak to the resilience that Ireland has had throughout years of tragedy. As a nation that has a very turbulent history, this list is my personal love letter to Ireland and its many incredible musicians.

Without further ado, here are my picks for the best songs to get you in the Irish spirit this St. Patrick’s Day:

Zombie” – The Cranberries

Zombie is an Irish rock protest song released by The Cranberries in 1994. The song is written about The Troubles conflict in Northern Ireland, which lasted from the late 1960’s to 1998. This conflict saw many parts of Ireland devastated from bombings, as Northern Ireland struggled to gain independence from England and unite with the Republic of Ireland. While The Cranberries have plenty of other hits, this song makes the list because of its impact as an anti-war anthem in Ireland. 

Sunday Bloody Sunday” – U2

Another song about the horrors of The Troubles conflict, Sunday Bloody Sunday is a song that at its root called for the end of hatred and war in Ireland. While controversial at its release, the song has stood the test of time as a great protest song, and is a pick on this list because it highlights the ability of Irish artists to call for change through their music, in spite of dire circumstances.

Fairytale of New York (Feat Kirsty MacColl)“- The Pogues

Fairytale of New York is an Irish Christmas song that was released in 1987. Telling the story of two Irish immigrant’s Christmas Eve spent in a drunk tank, it is essentially a call-and-response between the couple as they reminisce and bicker. The song is crass, hopeless, and yet hopeful about the future at the same time. While it should be noted that the song does include offensive language that in no way should be condoned today, this song makes my list because it is just too iconic within Irish culture to not be acknowledged. While we aren’t in the Christmas season, his is a song at its core about wanting more, which I believe is a sentiment that can be felt year-round. 

Tell Me Ma” – Sham Rock

A dance club remix of a traditional Irish children’s song, Sham Rock combines the instrumentals of Irish folk music with dance club beats in order to produce this mega hit. This song is great for getting pumped up for St. Patrick’s Day, and is a great example of Irish musicians innovating on their roots to create incredible modern music. Tell Me Ma is definitely a must-play for a great St. Patrick’s Day party.

Lisdoonvarna” – Christy Moore

Lisdoonvarna is just a fun song! Released in 1979, it is a joy-filled song that just makes you want to dance and clap along. The song itself is led by clever lyrics depicting Moore’s love for Lisdoonvarna, a small town in Ireland. This song makes the list because of its ability to immediately hype you up for St. Patrick’s Day.

Sally MacLennanne” – The Pogues

Sally MacLennane is a lively song about the changes seen in life, all from the perspective of an Irish bartender. With its lyrics depicting the many hilarious scenarios seen by the bartender over the years, it leaves the question unanswered of whether Sally MacLennanne refers to the singers girlfriend or a brand of stout. This song makes the list because of its a lively and witty Irish staple from one of the most popular bands in Irish history. 

The Fields of Anthenry” – The Dubliners

Often referred to as the unofficial Irish national anthem, The Fields of Anthenry is a song that has been recorded and sung many times over. Released in 1979, it is an Irish folk ballad about a man being arrested for stealing food for his starving family, the song calls upon the struggles of the Irish potato famine. The song is now primarily used as a sporting anthem for various Irish and Scottish rugby teams. Being such a well-known song in Ireland, it makes the list for its Irish patriotism and ability to bring people together. 

Butchered Tongue” – Hozier

For a more modern pick, Hozier’s Butchered Tongue is a devastating song depicting the horrific acts of violence perpetrated by British forces against the Irish in 1798. While the subject matter is quite gruesome, Hozier shows appreciation for the ability of culture to persevere in spite of colonial pressures, making this quite a patriotic song at its core.

Mandinka” – Sinéad O’Connor

Mandinka by Sinead O’Connor was released in 1987, and is essentially about an African tribe called the Mandinka. While at first it might be hard to understand how this could possibly relate to Ireland, O’Connor uses parallels between the Mandinka and her native Ireland to make this a powerful anthem about resistance. An outspoken pop star, O’Connor’s song is ultimately a critique of oppression and the Irish Catholic theocracy, and a call for hope for anyone facing oppression.

On My Own” – Niall Horan

From Niall Horan’s debut album, On My Own is a song about taking the good with the bad and enjoying exactly where you are in life. The chorus, “I’ll kiss all the women/Get punched in the head/You could offer the world, baby/But I’ll take this instead, yeah, yeah” encapsulates that feeling perfectly. Making the list because of its infectious instrumental and feel-good vibes, this is a great song to listen to if you just want to appreciate your life for what it is and have a great St. Patrick’s Day.

Courtesy of Independent News Media/Getty Images

Honorable Mentions:

Local Houston Highlight: Blaggards

Image courtesy of Scotfest 2022

Blaggards is a local Houston band that has been making Irish Rock fusion music for almost 20 years! If you are looking for local Irish musicians to support I highly recommend checking them out! They have about 140,000 monthly listeners on Spotify, and they frequently tour all around Texas and Ireland, with their next show in Houston being March 31st at the Houston Botanic Gardens.

In conclusion

Whether your St. Patrick’s Day plans include bar hopping and Irish pubs across town or binge-watching Derry Girls in bed, I hope that these songs help to get you in the Irish spirit and appreciate the musical brilliance that has come from Irish culture.

  • Audrey Marston

    Hi! I am a sophomore Political Science and Strategic Communications major. I love all things music! I am intrigued by how music connects us all, and am always trying to dig deeper to understand not only how our world impacts music but how our music impacts the world.

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