If you couldn't tell, St. Patrick's Day is one of my favorite holidays. In Chicago, it is the unofficial start of spring, as people emerge from their winter cocoons to celebrate the fact that it is no longer below zero and our city's two shitty baseball teams haven't yet broken our hearts.
Anyway, here is my annual list of Top Ten St. Patrick's Day Songs, with pretty much the same descriptions as I have every year. I've added a couple bonus songs in there to spice things up. If you're having a party, download these songs and make them part of your playlist (or just hit "play" on the playlist below). If you're going to a bar, you better damn well find these on the jukebox -- especially "Whiskey in the Jar." If you're not doing anything, listen to these songs anyway, have a few Irish coffees, and try to figure out how to make your situation better while sleeplessly vomiting and wondering why anyone would ruin whiskey by putting it in coffee.
So, here are my Top Ten St. Patrick's Day songs, in no particular order, followed by a playlist with all of the songs.
10. "Whiskey in the Jar" by Thin Lizzy.
You can't have a list involving Irish music without this traditional Irish folk song or without Ireland's greatest rockers (take that, U2!). "Whiskey in the Jar" is a story of an Irish highwayman who is betrayed by his woman. Man, I've been there. It was a No. 1 hit in Ireland for 17 straight weeks in 1972 and a top ten hit on the UK charts a year later. If you are at any bar with me on St. Patrick's Day, you will hear this song many times. I will also be carrying a rapier, so watch out.
9. "Shamrocks and Shenanigans" by House of Pain.
Boom shalock lock boom! This song may not be the most lyrically or musically complex offering on this list, but its title does represent what St. Patrick's Day is all about (aside from banishing snakes).
8. "Danny Boy" by Johnny Cash.
There are many versions of "Danny Boy," but I'm a fan of this one because it's from one of the Man in Black's final albums (2002's American IV: The Man Come Around), and it sounds like Cash is singing for his own impending funeral. It's eerie, but beautiful at the same time. You probably shouldn't play this in a bar, unless you want to make old Irish men cry.
7. "Drunken Lullabies" by Flogging Molly.
Along with Dropkick Murphys, Flogging Molly are the leaders of the modern Celtic punk genre (which is interesting, considering their lead singer, Dave King, was once the high-wailing singer of early '80s metal band Fastway). Anyway, this song is high-energy, fun as hell, and has been featured in St. Patrick's Day beer commercials (Killian's, I believe, which is interesting, considering Killian's isn't an Irish beer, kind of sucks, and is the reason Caffrey's is no longer imported into the U.S. Thanks Coors.). You really can't go wrong with any Flogging Molly song on St. Patrick's Day.
6. "Sunday Bloody Sunday" by U2.
To combat the fun-loving, drinking-themed songs, one must only look as far as Ireland's most popular rockers to bring you back down to the intra-island strife that has plagued Ireland since Partition (and even before). "Sunday Bloody Sunday" has always been one of my favorite U2 songs. It's about the 1972 event in Derry, Northern Ireland, where British troops shot at unarmed civil rights marchers, killing 13 (interestingly, this is one of several "Bloody Sundays" throughout modern Irish history). I also added "I Will Follow" to the playlist, since I like that song, and it's not about innocent people dying.
5. "The Way Young Lovers Do" by Van Morrison.
It was tough trying to pick a Van Morrison song for this list. "Brown-Eyed Girl" is too cliché, the entire Moondance album is great, but none of the songs seemed to fit with a St. Patrick's Day theme. Thus, I went with one of my favorites off of Astral Weeks, "The Way Young Lovers Do," since it's upbeat and generally all right. I also added "Here Comes The Night" by Morrison's pre-solo band, Them, since if you see the night coming on Saturday, it probably means you are shitcanned because you have been drinking for 6-10 hours, so, you know, make sure you eat something.
4. "Alternative Ulster" by Stiff Little Fingers.
This is just a great, catchy punk song by Belfast-based Stiff Little Fingers. The opening riff has shades of Irish influences, before busting into a frenzied song -- written at the height of the IRA/Unionist violence -- encouraging the citizens of Ulster (that's Northern Ireland for those unfamiliar with Irish history) to bring about a positive change to the violence.
3. "Streams of Whiskey" by The Pogues.
A St. Patrick's Day list wouldn't be complete without The Pogues. This song seemed like a fitting one to include, since I plan on bathing myself in streams of whiskey on Saturday. Another solid Pogues choice would have been "The Sick Bed Of Cuchulainn," so I included that in the playlist too.
2. "Kiss Me I'm Shitfaced" by Dropkick Murphys.
The title says all you need to say on St. Patrick's Day when the girl of your dreams -- wearing a Kelly green t-shirt that says "Kiss Me I'm Irish," a leprechaun hat, and a pair of the glassiest eyes this side of Shannon -- stumbles into the bar at 3 p.m. Saturday, knocking into you as a result of the seven car bombs she had at the last bar. You must act quickly, though, before you both inevitably end up puking next to a dumpster on your respective walks home. I also included on the playlist their more famous song, "I'm Shipping Up to Boston," which was featured in The Departed, in Sam Adams commercials, at Red Sox games, and in Tilted Kilt commercials.
1. "Róisín Dubh (Black Rose): A Rock Legend" by Thin Lizzy.
From the Irish Gaelic title based on a Sixteenth Century Irish political song to the bombastic dueling lead guitars to the moment Phil Lynott's vocals kick in ("Tell me the legends of long ago . . .") to the Irish-influenced guitar break to the "yeeeeeeeep" during the guitar break to the post-guitar break moment when Lynott's vocal kick in again ("Oohhhhhhhh, tell me the legends of long ago . . .") and the following ode to all things Irish, from folklore to literature to music, this is an undying, Irish epic and (as if you couldn't tell) one of my favorite Thin Lizzy songs.