St. Patrick’s Day Songs: 10 Essential Rock Tracks for Your Playlist

2021-03-16

Dropkick Murphys pictured on a city street, in black and white.

Dropkick Murphys – Story by Anne Erickson, photo by Ken Susi

From Flogging Molly to Dropkick Murphys, read on for 10 essential St. Patrick’s Day rock songs to get in your party mix

St. Patrick’s Day is upon us, and whether or not you’re Irish, chances are you’re going to tune into some Irish jams at some point over the course of the holiday. While Celtic and Irish music are often the styles of choice on St. Patrick’s Day, don’t overlook the bevy of great rock artists who have crafted music appropriate to crank over a meal of steam cabbage and soda bread. After all, while there are plenty of Irish folks songs out there, sometimes it’s refreshing to try something different.

Read on for 10 Essential St. Patrick’s Day Rock Songs (in alphabetical order). To properly celebrate, put on some green, for goodness sake.

St. Patrick’s Day Songs: 10 Essential Rock Tracks

The Cranberries, “Zombie”

The Cranberries found themselves to be one of the most popular Irish rock bands of the moment in the mid-1990s, hailing from Limerick, Ireland, and finding success across the world with their whimsical alternative rock style. “Zombie” is their signature song, offering a melancholy alt-rock ballad, sung by Dolores O’Riordan, about the IRA bombings in Warrington, England. “It’s the same old theme since 1916” and putting the cost of the conflict in context with her vulnerable delivery of “Another mother’s breaking heart is taken over / When the violence causes silence, we must be mistaken,” O’Riordan begs.

Dropkick Murphys, “Do or Die”

At this point, Dropkick Murphys are synonymous with Irish rock ‘n’ roll. The band’s 1998 full-length debut is still their seminal release, mixing Irish sounds with hardcore punk and rock to great accord. Off that debut, the album’s title track, “Do or Die,” stands out as the perfect St. Patrick’s Day jam. It’s worth noting that “Do or Die” is the only Dropkick Murphys album to feature original lead singer, Mike McColgan, who ended up becoming a fire fighter and eventually starting his own band, the Street Dogs. The band is currently fronted by Al Barr, who equally rocks.

Flogging Molly, “Float”

Celtic punk band Flogging Molly are always favorites when March rolls around, and their songs begged to be played while sipping on Guinness or Jameson. While most of Flogging Molly’s tracks have a party-happy vibe, “Float,” off the band’s 2008 release by the same name, stands out as something different and special, with beautiful melodies and emotional lyrics that will have you in a reflective mood. Those looking for more Flogging Molly on their playlist should consider adding “Drunken Lullabies,” “What’s Left of the Flag” and “Rebels of the Sacred Heart” into the mix.

John Lennon and Yoko Ono , “The Luck of the Irish”

John Lennon and Yoko Ono go for the jugular and straight-up sing about Ireland with “The Luck of the Irish,” which was released on the couple’s 1972 album with Elephant’s Memory, “Some Time in New York City.” The acoustic songs features a folk-tinged melody and guitar-focused waltz in the tradition of longtime Irish folk songs. The subject matter of “The Luck of the Irish” focuses on the difficult situation in Northern Ireland at the time.

Kiss, “Hard Luck Woman”

Kiss sings about luck of a certain nature in “Hard Luck Woman,” which was the lead single from the rock band’s 1976 album, “Rock and Roll Over.” Paul Stanley first wrote the song as a possible tune for Rod Stewart, but following the superstar power of “Beth,” Kiss made a go for it and recorded their own version of “Hard Luck Woman.” If you’re going to rock any Kiss song over St. Patrick’s Day, this is the one, thanks to its lucky theme and folk rock quality.

The Pogues, “Fairytale of New York”

The Pogues came out of the London punk landscape in 1982 with a unique blend of punk and traditional Irish music. The band’s quinnessential songs if 1988’s “Fairytale Of New York,” which is something of an anti-love Christmas songs. Sure, a holiday songs seems an odd pick for a St. Patrick’s Day playlist, but “Fairytale of New York” simply works, because it’s one of the Pogues’ greatest songs of all time, with plenty of Irish twists and turns.

Thin Lizzy, “Whiskey in the Jar”

Thin Lizzy found a pot of gold with their version of the traditionally folk song “Whiskey in the Jar,” which tells the tale of a highwayman or footpad who robs an official and is betrayed by a woman. Thin Lzzy released their cover in the 1960s, and then, they re-recorded it with the Pogues in 1990, so it’s a standard on any Thin Lzzy playlist. The band knocks it out of the part with their version, which turns the folk tune into a full-out rock number.

Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, “You Got Lucky”

What’s more Irish than a song about luck? “You Got Lucky” is the debut single from Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers’ 1982 studio album, “Long After Dark,” and the track features some cool synths, which is a different feel for Petty. Petty wasn’t super fond of the song, so it didn’t really work its way into his live shows until later in his career, but the theme of luck and catchy synths make it a perfect tune to rock for the Irish holiday.

U2, “Sunday Bloody Sunday”

No St. Patrick’s Day song list is complete without the biggest rock band ever to come out of Ireland: U2. “Sunday Bloody Sunday” is the opening song off U2’s, “War,” and it’s a serious number, with Bono singing about the Bloody Sunday experience in Derry, where British soldiers shot and murdered unarmed civil-rights protesters and bystanders who were there to protest against internment. If this song is to weighty for your St. Patrick’s Day party, there’s always “Where the Streets Have No Name” or “In the Name of Love.”

Wings, “Give Ireland Back to the Irish”

Paul McCartney and Wings released “Give Ireland Back to the Irish” as their debut single in February 1972. The song, which was recorded at Abbey Road, was penned by Paul McCartney and his wife at the time, Linda, to discuss the horrific events of Bloody Sunday. Along with U2 and John Lennon’s “Sunday Bloody Sunday,” the Bloody Sunday events have inspired a bevy of socially-responsible Irish rock songs at the time.

Feel like adding Metallica to your playlist? Read Audio Ink Radio’s 12 Most Underrated Metallica Songs here.

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