5 Irish Bands and Musicians For Your St. Patrick's Day Playlist

March is very quickly becoming one of my favorite months. In addition to being the month of my half birthday — an event I’m tirelessly promoting as an occasion for others to purchase me things, preferably alcohol — it is also the month of St. Patrick’s Day. This is a particularly special time for me, because I love Irish music. Ordinarily, my attempts to force my love of traditional Irish music on others is met with the request that I change the music to something more mainstream, perhaps Taylor Swift; however, every year around St. Patrick’s Day, something beautiful happens and my musical lifestyle choices are met with a greater generosity of spirit, dare I say, even acceptance. As such, it makes sense to use this narrow of window of opportunity to share my musical expertise with all of you. Here are five Irish bands and musicians that you should include on your St. Patrick’s Day playlists:

1. Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem:


First becoming big in the 1960s, the Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem are credited with popularizing Irish folk music in the States.  In addition to being extremely influential on the basis of their musical strengths alone, they also win best-dressed band in my book.  They were known for performing in their cozy Aran sweaters. 

If you enjoy these guys, I’d also recommend the Wolfe Tones and Dubliners.

2. The Chieftains:


Formed in 1962, the Chieftains are a traditional, chiefly instrumental Irish music band.  First becoming popular in Ireland and the UK, the Chieftains became big in the U.S. through their work on film soundtracks. Over the course of the band’s existence, the Chieftains have won six Grammys and played for audiences that included Pope John Paul II. While the band’s sound is primarily instrumental, they’re also known for their numerous collaborations with other artists, including the Rolling Stones, Madonna, Art Garfunkel, and fellow Irish musicians, Van Morrison, the Corrs, and Sinéad O’Connor.

If you enjoy the instrumental style of the Chieftains, I’d recommend checking out Matt Molloy and Gaelic Storm (if you have a particularly fine musical ear or are capable of a google search, you might recognize them from Titanic, specifically as the band at the most awesome party ever).

3. Christy Moore:


The only solo artist on our list, Christy Moore is a folk singer, songwriter, and guitarist.  He released his first significant musical effort in 1972, though he really began his musical career when he joined a banker’s strike in 1966 and simply never returned to work, choosing to pursue music instead. Known for his political views as well as his musical talent, Moore’s left-wing and republican leanings (sorry, Rand and Rush, that’s “republican” with a lowercase “r”) manifest themselves in many of his songs.

Similar artists worth sampling include Moore’s brother Luka Bloom, along with Danny Doyle, and Irish balladeer Paddy Reilly (of no known relation to the author, though a girl can dream). 

4. The Pogues


The Pogues are a Celtic punk band hailing from London. Formed in 1982, the Pogues derive their name from the Anglicization of the Gaelic phrase, "Póg ma thóin," meaning, "Kiss my ass." The Pogues make the list partially because they’re a great band, which they are, partially because they teach us naughty words in a foreign language, and also partially because their lead singer, Shane MacGowan, sounds like what I’d imagine Batman would sound like if he gave up defending Gotham and took up a career in Irish music. If you recall, Batman did retire at the end of the latest movie. Coincidence?

If you like the Pogues, I’d also recommend you try Black 47, Dropkick Murphys, or Flogging Molly,which my mother derogatorily described as, "Irish music on speed." That was the closest I ever came to a genuine act of rebellion as a teenager: listening the same music as my parents only with a slightly quicker tempo.

5. U2:


Formed in 1976, U2 has sold over 150 million records worldwide and won 22 Grammys, more than any other band, Irish or otherwise. Growing out of a punk rather than folk tradition — though some of their songs deal with undeniably Irish themes, take their song "Bloody Sunday" for example — U2 makes the list on the basis of the sheer magnitude of their global appeal. Lead singer Bono’s penchant for strangely colored glasses, however, makes this band’s sartorial profile somewhat less prestigious than, say, the Clancy Brothers’.

If you’re in the market for other rockers hailing from the Emerald Isle, I’d check out Van Morrison, the Cranberries, and Sinéad O’Connor. 

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Caitlin Reilly

Cait is an independent contractor with NPR. She recently graduated with a degree in history and literature from Harvard. In her free time she enjoys taking rec league soccer too seriously, watching embarrassing television, and correcting other people's grammar on facebook.

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