Category Archives: Music History

Happy St. Patrick’s Day

‘Tis a grand time of year when you’re Irish. Or when you’re of Irish heritage, or simply wish you were. Perhaps you claim you’re Irish even though you’re not. St. Patrick’s Day, which is today, draws out the Irish in plenty of people all over the world.

But who was St. Patrick and why do people everywhere celebrate this day as an international holiday?

St. Patrick was a fifth-century Romano-British Christian missionary and bishop in Ireland. Known as the “Apostle of Ireland”, he is the primary patron saint of Ireland. He is credited with bringing Christianity to Ireland.

Irish Music For St. Patrick’s Day

In his book, A History of Irish Music, William Grattan Flood writes, “No enemy speaks slightingly of Irish music, and no friend needs fear to boast of it.” So what is the story behind Irish music?

Today I am going to talk about four different types of Irish music.

1. Traditional Irish Music

Musicians sang early Irish songs a capella. They introduced pipes,  fiddles, and bodhrans (Irish drums) later. These instruments have become a staple of what we now know to be “traditional” Irish music. However, other instruments like the accordion, flute, and guitar have also become popular. Groups like Altan, The Chieftains and Celtic Woman provide traditional Irish tunes. They sing some of the most popular session songs. For example “Danny Boy,” “An Irish Lullaby,” “Rocky Road to Dublin,” “Irish Eyes are Smiling,” and “Finnegan’s Wake.”

2. Modern Irish Music

Who said that Irish music could only be old, sad and nostalgic? Many famous music groups from Ireland have blessed us with their sound, including U2, Sinead O’Connor, The Cranberries and Van Morrison.

3. Irish Harp Music

Francis Bacon once said that “no harp hath the sound so melting as the Irish harp.” Irish harp music dates back to the 10th-century Irish court when the harp was strung with wires of brass and plucked with long fingernails. It was the centerpiece of royal Irish music until it was eliminated by the British, surviving only as the dance music of the poor. Irish harp music, therefore, is considered the ancestor of Irish traditional music.

One of the biggest contributors to this form of Irish music was the blind harpist Turlough O’Carolan. The wandering harper lived from 1670-1738 and composed hundreds of tunes.

4. Celtic Music

Is there a difference between Celtic music and Irish music? Yes and no. Celtic (pronounced “kel-tic”) originally referred to a group of people who settled in Ireland, Scotland, Britain and surrounding areas. Celtic music in this sense is not specifically Irish.  Nevertheless, it is considered easy-listening, mood music that has an enchanting and relaxing feel.

Therefore, Irish music can be Celtic, but Celtic music isn’t always Irish. Some consider Enya to be modern Celtic music with a haunting Irish sound. Here is one of my favorites.


Remembering Super Bowl XXXVI

I will admit. I’m not overly excited about watching tonight’s Super Bowl game. I expected a battle between the two best teams during the regular season. Instead we have to spend yet another Super Bowl Sunday watching Tom Brady and the Patriots.

Even before this season the Patriots had appeared in more Super Bowls than any other franchise (10). The New England Patriots (5–5), Dallas Cowboys (5–3), and San Francisco 49ers (5–1) have five wins. The Pittsburgh Steelers (6–2) have won the most Super Bowls with six. The Denver Broncos (3–5) and Patriots have each lost a record five Super Bowls. With a win the Patriots will move into a tie with the Steelers for most wins. Otherwise they will possess the dubious distinction of biggest losers.

Before the season the Rams played in three Super Bowls. They were 0-1 in Los Angeles and 1-1 in St. Louis.

Pregame Notes

This is a rematch of Super Bowl XXXVI when the Rams were based in St. Louis. Only one player, Patriots starting quarterback Tom Brady, remains on either roster from that contest. Bill Belichick, the Patriots’ head coach in that contest, also remains in that position.

The Patriots defeated the Rams by the score of 20–17. It was New England’s first Super Bowl championship, and the franchise’s first league championship of any kind. The game was also notable for snapping the AFC East’s long streak of not being able to win a Super Bowl championship. The division had lost eight Super Bowls in total (prior to the Patriots victory in XXXVI). It would be the last time the Rams reached a Super Bowl during their time in St. Louis.

Super Bowl LIII features record setting age differences between rival coaches and quarterbacks, pitting the 41-year old Tom Brady against the 24-year old Jared Goff, as well as the 66-year old Bill Belichick against 33-year old Sean McVay.

Super Bowl XXXVI Halftime Show

The halftime show featured a three-song set from Irish rock band U2. They had just completed their successful Elevation Tour. After a rendition of “Beautiful Day“, the band played “MLK” and “Where the Streets Have No Name” as the names of the victims from the September 11 attacks were projected onto a sheet behind the stage. While singing “Where the Streets Have No Name”, the group’s lead singer Bono replaced the lyrics “take shelter from the poison rain” with “dance in the Louisiana rain”, “high on a desert plain” with “where there’s no sorrow or pain”, and the final line “it’s all I can do” with “it’s all we can do”. At the conclusion of the song, Bono opened his jacket to reveal an American flag printed into the lining. U2’s halftime show captivated the audience as a poignant tribute to those who had been lost in the attacks. In 2009, ranked it the best halftime show in Super Bowl history.

John Lennon writes and records “Instant Karma” in a single day

“I wrote it for breakfast, recorded it for lunch and we’re putting it out for dinner.” That’s the way John Lennon told the story of “Instant Karma,” one of his most memorable songs. It was his third single as a solo artist to appear before the official breakup of the Beatles. The only exaggeration in John’s description was the part about dinner. “Instant Karma” wasn’t actually released to the public until 13 days after it was written and recorded. This happened over the course of a single Tuesday, on January 27, 1970. By any measure, it was one of the fastest pop songs ever to come to market.

“Instant Karma” came during a tumultuous time for John and for the band he would soon leave behind. The Beatles had spent the better part of 1969 trying to decide whether or not they were still a band. They abandoned recording sessions that had just begun. And they canceled plans for their first live performances in more than three years.

New Directions

The material for both of the band’s last two albums—Abbey Road and Let it Be—was recorded that year. However Let it Be sat unreleased and without an agreed-upon producer. Lennon, meanwhile, was moving in a new direction. “Give Peace a Chance,” had already come out under the name “The Plastic Ono Band”. “Cold Turkey,” his wrenching account of kicking heroin came out that same year. By January 1970, John had walked away from the Beatles. The from down Plastic Ono Band was the only musical entity he considered himself part of.

The January 27 session came about spontaneously. Lennon wrote the song that morning and, as he said, “I knew I had a hit record.” What got the record finished that same day and gave it its incredible sound, however, was the unexpected appearance of Phil Spector that evening in the EMI studios. After several run-throughs under Spector’s direction, John said, “Suddenly we went in the room and heard what he’d done to it…it was fantastic. It sounded like there was [sic] fifty people playing.” John’s happiness with the results would lead directly to Spector’s taking over the dormant Let it Be project—a development that ended up driving a further wedge between Lennon and McCartney prior to the official breakup of the Beatles.