- 29 Oct 19
From Christy Moore to Thumper
We don't just make music for export. Every incremental change to Irish society over our thousand issues has been soundtracked. Hot Press was just three-going-on-four when the infamous fire in the Stardust in Artane took the lives of 48 people, and injured 214, on that fateful Valentine's night in 1981. So began the local working-class community's bitter struggle for truth and justice. Shockingly, it is one that continues to this day with new inquests being announced recently.
"Days turn to weeks and weeks turn to years / Our laws favour the rich or so it appears," Christy Moore sang in 'They Never Came Home', a protest song for which he was found to be in contempt of court. He was right. Whatever the law might have said, it was a bad decision. But Christy Moore is a courageous man. Through his music, in the songs he chooses and the ones he writes, he has provided a wonderful ongoing commentary on Irish life, of a kind that would be hard to match, by any singer or performer, anywhere in the world. From responding to internment and the hunger strikes in the 1980s up to the current homeless crisis - and with hilarious excursions like 'Lisdoonvarna' and 'Joxer Goes To Stuttgart' thrown into the mix - he has never shied away from dealing with controversial issues. And he has also given more to causes, playing benefits and rallying the troops on the ground, than any other artist.
Irish folk music has been a powerful force for good - and for joy. Since 1977, outfits like The Bothy Band, Moving Hearts (both involving the great Donal Lunny), The Chieftains and The Dubliners (in their many guises) proved inspirational. Singers like Ronnie Drew, that fine songwriter Luka Bloom, the immeasurably brilliant Pierce Turner, Damien Dempsey, Maura O'Connell, Mary Black, Cara Dillon, Liam Ó Maonlaí and Rónán Ó Snodaigh, and latterly Lisa O'Neill, have carried the torch. For a time, it looked as if folk music might have lost its footing, but over the past few years there has been a resurgence. Lankum, with Radie Peat to the fore; Glen Hansard wearing his troubadour's hat; Damo and Lisa Hannigan; the likes of A Lazarus Soul even; and in particular the incomparable Martin Hayes and Dennis Cahill, and the boys in The Gloaming have taken it back centre-stage.
For a long time, music as protest seemed to be out of vogue but the referenda on marriage equality and the 8th Amendment seem to have re-lit that fuse too: the likes of Thumper and The Scratch have been performing for Extinction Rebellion. In a sense we have come full circle. Now we know that the very soil of the earth matters. We need to plug in to that main frame. And always remember that songs are for the people...