The Moonshiner

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For the 1916 film directed by Fatty Arbuckle, see The Moonshiners.

"The Moonshiner" is a folk song with disputed origins. It is catalogued as Roud Folk Song Index No. 4301. Some believe that the song originated in America, then later was made famous in Ireland. Others believe that it was the other way around. The Clancy Brothers stated on their recording that the song is of Irish origin, but again, this is disputed. Delia Murphy was singing it in Ireland from the late 1930s.[1] American country music singer Tex Ritter is famous for a song of similar tune and lyrics by the title "Jack of Diamonds" from as early as 1933. Bob Dylan recorded "Moonshiner" in 1963; this version was released on The Bootleg Series Volumes 1-3 (Rare & Unreleased) 1961-1991. The song has also been performed by Elliott Smith, Cat Power, Sons Of An Illustrious Father, Rumbleseat, Cast Iron Filter, Peter Rowan, Railroad Earth, Bob Forrest, Roscoe Holcomb, Uncle Tupelo, Jeffrey Foucault, The Tallest Man On Earth, The Floorbirds, Ben Manuel, Dear August, The 2nd St Rag Stompers, Tim Hardin, Charlie Parr, Oscar Lush, Punch Brothers, Fannigan's Isle, the Tumbling Bones, The Dad Horse Experience Rumbleseat, Redbird and Robert Francis, Ekoostik Hookah


(transcribed from Uncle Tupelo's version, from "March 16-20 - 1992".

I am a
for 17
long years
and I spent all my money
on whisky
and beers

and I go to
some hollow
and set
up my still
if whisky don't kill me
lord, I don't know what will

and I go to
some barroom
to drink
with my friends
where the women they can't follow
to see what I spend

god bless them, 
pretty women
I wish
they was mine
with breath as sweet as
the dew on the vine

let me eat
when I'm hungry
let me drink
when I'm dry
two dollars
when I'm hard up
when I die

the whole world
is a bottle
and life
is but a dram
when the bottle
gets empty
lord it sure ain't
worth a damn


  1. ^ O'Hara, Aidan (1997). I'll live till I die. Leitrim: Drumlin Publications. ISBN 1-873437-17-X.