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In Ireland, a rebel song is a folk song whose lyrics extol the deeds of factual events/participants in any of the various armed rebellions against English, and later British, of unwanted rule in Ireland. Songs about older rebellions were long popular with most Irish nationalists; more recent songs are associated with supporters of physical force Irish republicanism.
The tradition of rebel music in Ireland dates back many centuries, dealing with historical events such as uprisings, describing the hardships of living under oppressive British rule, but also strong sentiments of solidarity, loyalty, determination, as well as praise of valiant heroes.
As well as a deep-rooted sense of tradition, rebel songs have nonetheless remained contemporary, and since 1922, the focus has moved onto the nationalist cause in Northern Ireland, including support for the IRA and Sinn Féin. However, the subject matter is not confined to Irish history, and includes the exploits of the Irish Brigades who fought for the Republican side in the Spanish Civil War, and also those who fought during the American Civil War. There are also some songs that express sorrow over war (from a Republican perspective), such as Only our rivers run free, and some have been covered by bands that have tweaked lyrics to be explicitly anti-war, such as the cover of The Patriot Game by Scottish group The Bluebells.
Over the years, a number of bands have performed "crossover" music, that is, Irish rebel lyrics and instrumentation mixed with other, more pop styles. Damien Dempsey is known for his pop-influenced rebel ballads and bands like Seanchai and the Unity Squad and Beltaine's Fire combine Rebel music with Political hip hop and other genres.
Irish rebel music has occasionally gained international attention. The Wolfe Tones' version of A Nation Once Again was voted the number one song in the world by BBC World Service listeners in 2002. Many of the more popular acts recently such as Saoirse, Éire Óg, Athenrye, Shebeen, Mise Éire and Pádraig Mór are from Glasgow. The Bog Savages of San Francisco are fronted by an escapee from Belfast's Long Kesh prison who made his break in the September 1983 "Great Escape" by the IRA.
Music of this genre has often courted controversy with some of this music effectively banned from the airwaves in the Republic of Ireland in the 1980s. More recently, Derek Warfield's music was banned from Aer Lingus flights, after the Ulster Unionist politician Roy Beggs Jr compared his songs to the speeches of Osama bin Laden. However, a central tenet of the justification for rebel music from its supporters is that it represents a long-standing tradition of freedom from tyranny.
List of notable artists
- South Dublin Union (Tommy Skelly - Writer of the song
- Black 47
- Charlie and the Bhoys
- The Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem
- The Dubliners
- Go Lucky Four
- David Kincaid
- Christy Moore
- Dermot O'Brien
- Seanchai & the Unity Squad
- Derek Warfield
- Wolfe Tones
- Wolfhound a.k.a. The Wolfhounds
- Young Dubliners
- The Irish Brigade
- Declan Hunt
- Bik McFarlane
- Gary Óg
- Padraig Mór
List of notable songs
- A Boy Called Williams
- Amhrán na bhFiann
- Arbour Hill; about the place.
- Belfast Brigade
- Back Home in Derry, by Bobby Sands; to the tune of The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald
- The Bold Fenian Men a.k.a. Down by the Glenside
- Boys of Kilmichael
- The Broad Black Brimmer
- Connolly Was There
- Come All You Warriors
- Come Out Ye Black And Tans
- Connaught Rangers (a.k.a. The Drums Were Beating), about the regiment
- Erin Go Bragh
- Fergal O'Hanlon; about the man
- Fighting men from Crossmaglen
- Follow me up to Carlow
- Four Green Fields by Tommy Makem
- Freedom's Sons
- Give Ireland Back To The Irish
- God Save Ireland
- Go on home, British soldiers
- Grave of Wolfe Tone
- The Great Fenian Ram; about the submarine.
- Green in the Green
- The Helicopter Song
- Hurrah for the Volunteers
- Irish Citizen Army; about the organisation.
- Irish Volunteers; about the organisation.
- Johnston's Motor Car
- Join the British Army
- Kelly The Boy From Killane
- Lay Him Away On the Hillside
- My Little Armalite
- Maurice O'Neill
- The Men Behind the Wire
- The Minstrel Boy
- My Old Man's a Provo
- Northern Gaels/Crumlin Jail; about the prison.
- Old Howth Gun
- Old Fenian Gun
- One Shot Paddy
- Oró Sé do Bheatha 'Bhaile
- The Peeler and the Goat
- Rebel Hearts
- The Rifles of the IRA
- Rock On Rockall
- Roll of Honour
- Signal Fires
- Some Say the Devil is Dead
- Soldiers of '22
- Sunday Bloody Sunday (by John Lennon and Yoko Ono — the U2 song of the same name is "not a rebel song")
- Teddy Bear's Head
- The SAM Song
- Tiocfaidh ár lá (a.k.a. SAM song))
- The West's Awake
- You'll Never Beat the Irish
- 3rd West Cork Brigade
- Ambush At Drumnakilly
- Amhrán na bhFiann (a.k.a. The Soldier's Song) – The Irish National Anthem
- A Nation Once Again
- Arthur McBride
- The Ballad of Mairead Farrell; about the woman.
- Banna Strand (a.k.a. Lonely Banna Strand)
- The Boy from Tamlaghtduff
- The Boys of the Old Brigade
- The Boys of Wexford
- The Croppy Boy
- Dunlavin Green
- Dying Rebel
- Éamonn an Chnoic (a.k.a. Ned of the Hill)
- The Fields of Athenry
- The Foggy Dew (Irish ballad)
- Four Green Fields
- Gerard Casey; about the man.
- Ireland Unfree; named for the oration.
- James Connolly; about the man.
- Joe McDonnell; about the man.
- Kevin Barry
- Martin Hurson; about the man.
- Men of the West;
- Only Our Rivers Run Free; by Mickey MacConnell.
- Pat of Mullingar
- The Patriot Game
- Pearse Jordan; about the man.
- The People's Own MP
- The Rising of the Moon
- Sean South
- Seán Treacy; about the man.
- Streets of Sorrow/Birmingham Six
- Take It Down from the Mast
- Tom Williams; about the man.
- Tone's Grave (a.k.a. Bodenstown Churchyard)
- There Were Roses, by Tommy Sands
- The Valley of Knockanure
- The Wearing of the Green
- The Wind that Shakes the Barley
- Up the Provos (About Commadante Francis Hughes)
- Women of Ireland (a.k.a. Mná na h-Éireann)
- Young Roddy McCorley
Sunday Bloody Sunday (U2 song)
The 1983 U2 album War includes the song "Sunday Bloody Sunday", a lament for the Northern Ireland troubles whose title alludes to the 1972 Bloody Sunday shooting of Catholic demonstrators by British soldiers. In concert, Bono began introducing the song with the disclaimer "this song is not a rebel song". These words are included in the version on Under a Blood Red Sky, the 1983 live album of the War Tour. The 1988 concert film Rattle and Hum includes a performance hours after the 1987 Remembrance Day bombing in Enniskillen, which Bono condemns in a mid-song rant.
During the 1970s, Irish comedian Dermot Morgan lampooned both the Wolfe Tones and the clichés of Irish rebel songs by singing about the martyrdom of Fido, a dog who saves his IRA master by eating a hand grenade during a search of the house by the Black and Tans during the Irish War of Independence. When Fido farts and the grenade explodes, the British comment: "Excuse me, mate, was there something your dog ate?!" In a parody of Thomas Osborne Davis' famous rebel song A Nation Once Again, Morgan climaxed by singing the words: "Another martyr for old Ireland, by Britannia cruelly slain! I hope that somewhere up there I hope he'll be an Alsatian once again! An Alsatian once again! An Alsatian once again! That Fido who's now in ribbons will be an Alsatian once again!"
- Millar, Stephen (2020). Sounding Dissent: Rebel Songs, Resistance, and Irish Republicanism. Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan Press. doi:10.3998/mpub.11393212. ISBN 978-0-472-13194-5.
- "The Worlds Top Ten". BBC World Service. Retrieved 24 June 2015.
- "Wolfe Tones pulled from Aer Lingus flights". BreakingNews.ie. 24 March 2003. Archived from the original on 10 March 2007. Retrieved 2 October 2017.
- "Irish Rebel Songs". Globerove. Retrieved 24 June 2015.
- "The Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem". Retrieved 24 June 2015.
- Christy Moore.com Back home in Derry Archived 2009-12-16 at the Wayback Machine
- "Celtic Wonder Beads". Archived from the original on 20 July 2015. Retrieved 24 June 2015.
- Rory Warfield. "The Wolfe Tones' Official Site". Wolfetonesofficialsite.com. Archived from the original on 2012-08-29. Retrieved 2012-12-22.
- "Ballad Of Gerard Casey". Rebelchords.tripod.com. 1989-04-04. Archived from the original on 2001-12-25. Retrieved 2012-12-22.
- Thrills, Adrian (26 February 1983). "War & Peace". NME. Archived from the original on 17 July 2011. Retrieved 7 November 2007.
- Rolston, Bill (2011). "Political Song (Northern Ireland)". In Downing, John Derek Hall (ed.). Encyclopedia of Social Movement Media. SAGE Publications. p. 415. ISBN 9780761926887. Retrieved 20 May 2016.
- An Alsatian Once Again