Modern musicians often turn to folklore in search of inspiration and new ideas for creativity. Sometimes especially successful cover versions make old ballads very popular with music lovers.
The composition Whiskey in the Jar (“Whisky in a flask”), which will be discussed later, was performed by dozens of famous groups, which made it one of the most famous Irish folk songs.
Story and meaning of the song Wiskey in the Jar
When exactly Whiskey in the Jar was born, no folklorist can say for sure. According to the most common version among researchers, the plot of the ballad is based on the story of the criminal Patrick Flemming, who was executed in 1650.
The words of the ballad tell about a robber who committed a daring robbery and was betrayed by his beloved.
The song exists in numerous versions, where different names and place names appear. The girl can be called Jenny, Ginny or Molly. The robber’s victim is a captain or colonel named Farrell or Pepper. In some variations, the action takes place in Kerry, Cork, Kilmaganny, Sligo and other places.
There are also different ways of betraying the main character by a friend. Now she betrays him to the authorities, then she deliberately spoils his weapon with water or sand.
When the ballad hit colonial America, many liked it, as the local population could not stand the British authorities, and the text of the song tells just about the robbery of an official. In the New World, new versions of the storyline emerged with American characters and cities.
In the circles of American folk music lovers Whiskey in the Jar was popular back in the fifties and sixties of the twentieth century. Burl Ives, The Limeliters and The Brothers Four performed a ballad called Kilgary Mountain, while Peter, Paul, and Mary recorded it as Gilgarra Mountain.
The song was played with great success by The Dubliners. It would not be an exaggeration to say that she has become the hallmark of Irish folk musicians. They recorded the song three times, included it in several albums and released it as a single.
No less successful was the rock version performed by Thin Lizzy. According to Eric Bell, the band recorded Whiskey in the Jar by accident while rehearsing in a London pub:
Usually we were working on new material, but on that particular day it wasn’t. We were about to finish, but Philip put the bass aside, picked up a six-string guitar, and just started playing all sorts of stupid songs. About twenty minutes later he started singing Whiskey in the Jar among those stupid songs. By that time, Brian Downey and I were terribly bored and began to play along with him.
After hearing this improvisation, manager Ted Carroll suggested that the musicians record Whiskey in the Jar for the back of the Black Boys single in the Corner. The audience liked the composition so much that the group was perceived for a long time as performers of one hit.
Of course, one cannot help but recall the Metallica version. “Kings of Thrash Metal” recorded their version of the song for the album of covers Garage Inc. and received a Grammy for it in the nomination “Best Hard Rock Performance”.
Among other performers of the composition were Smokie, Grateful Dead, Pulp, U2 and many others.
- Music historian Alan Lomax has suggested that John Gay wrote The Beggar’s Opera after hearing Whiskey in the Jar.
- Contrary to popular belief, The Clancy Brothers never recorded this song.
Whiskey in the Jar lyrics by Metallica
As I was goin’ over the Cork and Kerry mountains
I saw Captain Farrell and his money he was countin’
I first produced my pistol and then produced my rapier
I said: “Stand and deliver or the devil he may take ya”
I took all of his money and it was a pretty penny
I took all of his money yeah and I brought it home to Molly
She swore that she’d love me, no never would she leave me
But the devil take that woman yeah for you know she tricked me easy
Musha ring dum a doo dum a da
Whack for my daddy-o
Whack for my daddy-o
There’s whiskey in the jar-o
Being drunk and weary I went to Molly’s chamber
Takin’ my money with me, but I never knew the danger
For about six or maybe seven in walked Captain Farrell
I jumped up, fired off my pistols and I shot him with both barrels
Now some men like the fishin’ and some men like the fowlin’
And some men like ta hear, ta hear the cannon ball a roarin’
Me I like sleepin’, specially in my Molly’s chamber
But here I am in prison, here I am with a ball and chain yeah
Whiskey In The Jar Lyrics Alternstive
As I walked through the mountains of Cork and Kerry,
I saw Captain Farrell counting money
I took out a pistol and then a rapier
And said, “Trick or treat if you don’t want to go to hell!”
I took all his money, and there were a lot of them
I took all his money and took it home to Molly
She swore she would love me and never leave me
But damn that woman, she fooled me easily
Eh, my head is bad, yes-ma-doo, yes-ma-da
What a blow to my dad
What a blow to my dad
Well, at least there is whiskey in the flask
I got drunk and tired and wandered into Molly’s room
Taking money with you and unaware of the danger
About six or seven o’clock Captain Farrell came in
I jumped up, opened fire with pistols and shot him with two barrels
Someone loves fishing, someone loves hunting,
And someone likes to listen, listen to how the cannonball rumbles
And I like to sleep – especially in Molly’s room,
But here I am in prison, and a core is chained to my leg
… our version was extremely modern, but somehow it retained the Irish spirit.
Download Whiskey in the Jar
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