Let’s celebrate Saint Patrick’s Day by paying homage to five of the most famous Irish musicians … including one that will probably come as a surprise:
They’re inarguably the most well known band to ever come out of the Emerald Isle. Originally a six-piece, the group formed in Dublin in 1976. Within a few short years, singer Bono, guitarist David “The Edge” Evans and their compatriots Adam Clayton and Larry Mullen Jr. were selling records by the millions and setting attendance records in stadiums the world over. They’ve had so many hits over the decades, it’s hard to pick just one or two, but to get a flavor of the group’s powerhouse sound, check out “Pride (In The Name Of Love)” and “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For.”
2. Van Morrison
Born in Belfast in 1945, Van began playing guitar at the age of 11 and added piano and saxophone to his repertoire while still in his teens. In 1963, he formed the R&B group Them (who had a major hit in 1964 with his song “Gloria”) before launching a successful solo career and giving us two of the most quintessential sing-along tracks ever: “Brown Eyed Girl” and “Moondance.”
Born Eithne Pádraigín Ní Bhraonáin, she’s Ireland’s top-selling solo artist ever, with a distinctively esoteric musical style that includes folk melodies, extensive voice layering and dense reverbs, as exemplified in her hits “Orinoco Flow” and “Only Time.” Her songs have also been featured in the Lord of the Rings trilogy.
4. The Chieftains
Formed in 1963 under the leadership of Paddy Moloney, this group has become synonymous with traditional Irish folk music, with a sound that is almost entirely instrumental and largely built around uilleann pipes. Over the years they have collaborated with numerous artists, including the aforementioned Van Morrison, as well as Luciano Pavarotti, The Rolling Stones and Roger Daltrey.
5. Paul McCartney
Yes, that Paul McCartney. Like many Liverpudlians, Macca is of Irish descent, and, with his post-Beatles band Wings, he released a single entitled “Give Ireland Back to the Irish” in February 1972 as a protest to the events of Bloody Sunday, when British troops in Northern Ireland shot dead thirteen Irish Republican protestors. The record was immediately banned in the UK, and was largely overlooked in the United States too, reaching only number 21 on the Billboard Hot 100 … but it did top the national charts in Ireland.