Saturday, September 1, 2007

Whiskey in the jar

The first time I heard this song, it was already old. I don't mean old in the sense that it was, of course, an old song; I mean old in the form shown here, as a cover of an already very old song by a rock band. The Irish band Thin Lizzy, fronted by black Dubliner Phil Lynott, recorded their groundbreaking version of the traditional ballad in 1973, and I first heard it on a college radio station as a high school senior in the early 1980s. On that first hearing, I was filled with a strange and not unpleasant feeling of great loneliness, as if a vast plain were opening up in my soul. The despair of the song, coupled with Lynott's aggressive delivery and the mournful guitar riff that repeats throughout the song, spoke to my own loneliness in a convincing way, a way that would later be echoed by other (arguably better) music, such as Stravinsky's "Les Noces" and George Crumb's "Apparition."

I think Thin Lizzy's rock version of "Whiskey" is far superior to the rousing version by the Dubliners. It's a song sung from behind prison bars, after all, by a desperate man.

1 comment:

RA said...

Adds new meaning to the term, 'Black Irish.'