Whiskey in the Jar
|"Whiskey in the Jar"|
|Single by The Dubliners|
"Whiskey in the Jar" is a famous Irish traditional song, set in the southern mountains of Ireland, with specific mention of counties Cork and Kerry, as well as Fenit, a village in County Kerry. The song is about a Rapparee (Highwayman), who is betrayed by his wife or lover, and is one of the most widely performed traditional Irish songs. It has been recorded by numerous professional artists since the 1950s.
The song first gained wide exposure when the Irish folk band The Dubliners performed it internationally as a signature song, and recorded it on three albums in the 1960s. Building on their success, the Irish rock band Thin Lizzy hit the Irish and British pop charts with the song in the early 1970s. In 1990 The Dubliners re-recorded the song with The Pogues with a faster rocky version charting at No.4 in Ireland and No.63 in the UK. The American metal band Metallica brought it to a wider rock audience in 1998 by playing a version very similar to that of Thin Lizzy's, though with a heavier sound, winning a Grammy for the song in 2000 for Best Hard Rock Performance.
Chart performance (The Dubliners/Pogues)
|UK Singles (Official Charts Company)||63|
The song's exact origins are unknown. A number of its lines and the general plot resemble those of a contemporary broadside ballad "Patrick Fleming" (also called "Patrick Flemmen he was a Valiant Soldier") about an Irish highwayman executed in 1650.[dead link]
In the book The Folk Songs of North America, folk music historian Alan Lomax suggests that the song originated in the 17th century, and (based on plot similarities) that John Gay's 1728 The Beggar's Opera was inspired by Gay hearing an Irish ballad-monger singing "Whiskey in the Jar". In regard to the history of the song, Lomax states, "The folk of seventeenth century Britain liked and admired their local highwaymen; and in Ireland (or Scotland) where the gentlemen of the roads robbed English landlords, they were regarded as national patriots. Such feelings inspired this rollicking ballad."
At some point, the song came to the United States and was a favourite in Colonial America because of its irreverent attitude toward British officials. The American versions are sometimes set in America and deal with American characters. One such version, from Massachusetts, is about Alan McCollister, an Irish-American soldier who is sentenced to death by hanging for robbing British officials.
The song appeared in a form close to its modern version in a precursor called "The Sporting Hero, or, Whiskey in the Bar" in a mid-1850s broadsheet.
The song collector Colm Ó Lochlainn, in his book Irish Street Ballads, described how his mother learnt "Whiskey in the Jar" in Limerick in 1870 from a man called Buckley who came from Cork. When O Lochlainn included the song in Irish Street Ballads, he wrote down the lyrics from memory as he had learnt them from his mother. He called the song "There's Whiskey in the Jar", and the lyrics are virtually identical to the version that was used by Irish bands in the 1960s such as the Dubliners. The O Lochlainn version refers to the "far fam'd Kerry mountain" rather than the Cork and Kerry mountains, as appears in some versions.
The song also appears under the title "There's Whiskey in the Jar" in the Joyce collection, but that only includes the melody line without any lyrics. Versions of the song were collected in the 1920s in Northern Ireland by song collector Sam Henry.
"Whiskey in the Jar" is the tale of a highwayman or footpad who, after robbing a military or government official, is betrayed by a woman; whether she is his wife or sweetheart is not made clear. Various versions of the song take place in Kerry, Kilmoganny, Cork, Sligo Town, and other locales throughout Ireland. It is also sometimes placed in the American South, in various places among the Ozarks or Appalachians, possibly due to Irish settlement in these places. Names in the song change, and the official can be a Captain or a Colonel, called Farrell or Pepper among other names. The protagonist's wife or lover is sometimes called Molly, Jenny, or Ginny among various other names. The details of the betrayal are also different, being either betraying him to the person he robbed and replacing his ammunition with sand or water, or not, resulting in him killing the person.
A partial discography:
- Seamus Ennis – World Library of Folk and Primitive Music, Vol. 2: Ireland 1951 (Alan Lomax field recording)
- Burl Ives – Songs of Ireland 1958, as "Kilgary Mountain"
- The Highwaymen – Encore 1962
- The Brothers Four – In Person 1962, as "Kilgary Mountain"
- The Limeliters – Sing Out! 1962, as "Kilgary Mountain"
- Robert De Cormier – Dance Gal - Gimme the Banjo 1964, as "Kilgary Mountain"
- The Seekers – The Seekers 1964
- Peter, Paul & Mary – A Song Will Rise 1965, as "Gilgarra Mountain"
- Joe Dassin – Mâche ta chique 1965
- The Dubliners – 1967 (Album), 1968 (Single), 1969 (Album)
- Thin Lizzy – 1972 (Single)
- Euskefeurat – Mutta Herra Jumala 1982
- The Pogues – 1990, with The Dubliners
- Darby O'Gill – Waitin' for a Ride 1996
- Metallica – Garage Inc. 1998
- Smokie (band) – Uncovered 2000
- The Poxy Boggards – Lager Than Life 2002
- Blaggards – Live in Texas 2010
- Celtic Thunder – Heritage 2011
- Nolwenn Leroy – Bretonne 2011 (only the deluxe edition)
- Daniel Kobialka – as "Gift of Dreams", a New Age version
- El Cuarteto de Nos – Habla tu espejo 2014, as "Whisky en Uruguay"
Contrary to common belief, The Clancy Brothers never recorded the song. The confusion stems from the album Irish Drinking Songs, which is composed of separate tracks by The Dubliners and The Clancy Brothers, with the former performing "Whiskey in the Jar"; the same compilation includes the Clancy Brothers singing "Whiskey, You're The Devil", in which the line "There's whiskey in the jar" occurs several times. Liam Clancy did record it with his son and nephew on Clancy, O'Connell & Clancy in 1997, and Tommy Makem recorded it on The Song Tradition in 1998. The High Kings, featuring Bobby Clancy's son Finbarr, released a version in February 2011.
Thin Lizzy's 1972 single (bonus track on Vagabonds of the Western World [1991 edition]) stayed at the top of the Irish charts for 17 weeks, and the British release stayed in the top 30 for 12 weeks, peaking at No. 6, in 1973. This version has since been covered by U2, Pulp (first released on 1996 Various Artists album Childline and later on deluxe edition of Different Class in 2006), Smokie, Metallica (Garage Inc. 1998, which won a Grammy), Belle & Sebastian (The Blues Are Still Blue EP 2006), Gary Moore (2006), Nicky Moore (Top Musicians Play Thin Lizzy 2008), Simple Minds (Searching for the Lost Boys 2009), and Israeli musician Izhar Ashdot.
Icelandic folk band Þrjú á palli recorded it in 1971 as "Lífið Er Lotterí" with lyrics by Jónas Árnason. Lillebjørn Nilsen adapted it to Norwegian, as "Svikefulle Mari", on his 1971 album Tilbake. Finnish band Eläkeläiset recorded a humppa version as the title track of their 1997 album Humppamaratooni. In 2007 the Lars Lilholt Band made a Danish version, "Gi' Mig Whiskey in the Jar", for the album Smukkere Med Tiden. Estonian band Poisikõsõ recorded "Hans'a Õuhkaga" on the album Tii Päält Iist in 2007. In 1966, the Yarkon Bridge Trio, an Israeli singing group, recorded a song named "Siman Sheata Tsair" ("It Is a Sign That You Are Young") set to the melody of "Whiskey in the Jar"; the song became a massive hit and was later covered by various artists, notably by Gidi Gov.
- "Chart Track: Week 00, 1990". Irish Singles Chart.
- "Archive Chart: 1990" UK Singles Chart.
- Patrick Flemming, Folklore Home Page, California State University, Fresno (retrieved 10 July 2008)
- Patrick Flemming, The Complete Newgate Calendar Vol. I, Law in Popular Culture collection, Tarlton Law Library, University of Texas at Austin[dead link]
- The Folk Songs of North America: In the English Language, Alan Lomax, Peggy Seeger, Mátyás Seiber, Don Banks, Doubleday, 1960 Google Books Retrieved 11 July 2008
- The sporting hero, Firth c.17(314), Bodleian Library Catalog of Ballads (retrieved 10 July 2008)
- Irish Street Ballads, Colm O Lochlainn, Pan 1978, pp220
- Joyce, Patrick Weston, Old Irish Folk Music and Songs: a Collection of 842 Irish Airs and Songs Hitherto Unpublished, Cooper Square Publishers, New York, 1965. Originally published in 1909.
- Songs of the People edited by Gale Huntington, Lani Herrman with contributions from John Moulden. 1990 (University of Georgia Press) ISBN 0-8203-1258-4
- Phil Lynott: The Rocker, Mark Putterford, Omnibus Press, 2002, ISBN 0-7119-9104-9 Google Books (retrieved 11 July 2008)
- Childline at Discogs
- Tilbake, musikkonline.no
- Track listing, Lars Lilholt Band official site (retrieved 11 July 2008)
- "Special Broadcasting". Reshet Gimel. IBA/Google Translate. 28 April 2011. Retrieved 18 July 2013.
- Gidi Gov – Siman Sheata Tsa'ir on YouTube (NMC's official channel).
|Wikisource has original text related to this article:|