Stuck at home on St. Paddy’s? Welcome to the club, fellow responsible person. For the first time in recent history, health comes first on St. Patrick’s day, but that doesn’t mean you can’t still enjoy the spirit of the day. Cook some corned beef and cabbage, read some Joyce and Beckett, watch some Ballykissangel, color your beer green and crank those Irish tunes. Here are 15 Irish songs to get you through this socially-distanced St. Paddy’s day.
1. “Johnny I Hardly Knew Ye” by The Irish Rovers
A traditional anti-war Irish song first published in 1867, this tune has over a century’s worth of recordings. This 2003 live version by The Irish Rovers has a classic fife-and-drum feel to get your blood pumping green. If you’re looking for something a little more hard-rocking, Dropkick Murphys did a cover as well.
2. “Dirty Old Town” by The Pogues
The Pogues’ entire catalogue is relevant for this list, but the spirit of moderation forces me to choose this charming ode to working-class love and kissing by the factory wall.
3. “If I Ever Leave this World Alive” by Flogging Molly
“I’ll be here when it all gets weird.” Quite possibly the most worthwhile sentiment expressed in a love song. This tune starts melodic and hits a rocking ramp-up at the end into the rollicking chorus.
4. “Whiskey in the Jar” by The Dubliners
A story of crime, betrayal, and death in this classic Irish ditty. Fittingly tragic in lyric and upbeat in tune.
5. “The Blood of Cu Chulainn” by Mychael Danna and Jeff Danna
This song is the best part of the Boondocks Saints movies by a solid margin. It’s only an instrumental, but damn does it make you want to get a shamrock tattooed across your whole back.
6. “Sunday Blood Sunday” by U2
This classic 1983 U2 song is about The Troubles in Northern Ireland, and moves with an angry and violent drumbeat fitting for the dark topic.
7. “The Big Fellah” by Black 47
This song opens with a beautiful bit of acapella singing in Irish Gaelic, before hitting a hard guitar chord and descending into an anthemic rock song about the life of Irish soldier and politician Michael Collins.
8. “Irish Celebration” by Macklemore and Ryan Lewis
Released before his massive single, “Thrift Shop,” this song has Macklemore (a.k.a. Ben Haggerty) rhapsodizing about his proud Irish heritage. The best part of Ryan Lewis’ fantastic beat, created with a creative sample of Beirut’s “Scenic World.”
9. “Bound for Boston” by Kevin McKrell
A melodic ballad of sailors crossing the Atlantic for that notable destination for Irish immigrants, sunny Boston.
10. “A Night on Earth” by The Tossers
Some good ol’ fashioned Celtic punk from this Chicago band. A song that feels both nostalgic and mournful and upbeat and life-affirming.
11. “Zombie” by The Cranberries
A classic that cannot be ignored. On any other St. Patrick’s day, you can hear this playing from the speakers of any Irish bar you pass, but today just play at home in tribute to the late, great Dolores O’Riordan.
12. “When Irish Eyes are Smiling” by The Irish Tenors
One of the most popular Irish tunes of the past century, this tribute to the Irish, particularly their eyes’ ability to steal your heart away, is a harmonious and charming piece of music.
13. “Danny Boy” by Johnny Cash
Obviously, Johnny Cash always had a particularly American aura to him, but when he sings his quiet, heart-wrenching version of this Irish classic in one of the last recordings of his life, you’ll swear he came straight from Waterford.
14. “Rose Tattoo” by Dropkick Murphys
Dropkick Murphys kind of have a monopoly on hard-hitting punky Irish music. As someone who lived in Boston for four years, I’ve heard “I’m Shipping Up To Boston” an almost absurd amount of times. Here’s a more recent tune by them that embodies their fighting spirit.
15. “Oro Mo Bhaidin” by Mary O’Hara
A gentle Gaelic tune, almost a lullaby to close the night. This song gained some notoriety when Passion Pit sampled it for the song “Sleepyhead,” but the original version with Mary on the harp is much better.