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Podcast: Larry Kirwan on Black 47 and Irish Music in America

A Conversation with Larry Kirwan:

a_podcast_with_larry_kirwanLarry Kirwan has been around the literary and music worlds – both in the United States and Ireland — for quite some time. His highest profile gig was as the co-founder, guitarist and front man for Black 47, one of the most important Irish American bands of the past quarter century.

Kirwan and Chris Byrne founded Black 47 in 1989. It cast a long shadow and influenced subsequent bands, such as Dropkick Murphys and Flogging Molly. After 16 albums, the band called it quits in November. Kirwan said simply that the members felt it was time and that they remain friends.

Kirwan will be performing Saturday night March 7 at 8 PM at The YMCA Boulton Center in Bay Shore, New York, which is on Long Island. It is his first solo appearance in the states after a tour of Europe. He also will be playing at The Cutting Room on St. Patrick’s evening.

Kirwan, according to Wikipedia, has written 11 plays and musicals. One, called Transport, was written in collaboration with Thomas Keneally, the author of “Schindler’s List.” It is the story of British women — Keneally’s wife’s great grandmother among them — exiled to what now is Sydney, Australia in the 1800s.

I spoke to Kirwan this week about a number of things, including his music, the ending of Black 47 – which takes its name from the worst year of the Irish potato famine – and Irish music in America.

Irish music holds a very special place in New York City. As with anything concerning Ireland and the Irish, there are many levels to it. These include the obvious skills of the players and deeper themes of loss, pain, diaspora and displacement. Black 47 and Kirwan are a big part of the telling of those stories.

The song at the beginning and end of the podcast is “James Connolly.” Here is Black 47’s website.

(Photo: George Seminara)

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What else is there to say? Here is the story behind every song written by The Beatles. Click here or on the image.


The Grateful Dead don't get enough credit for the profound nature of its lyrics. Many of the band's songs are driven by a deep and literate Americana ("I'm Uncle Sam/That's who I am/Been hidin' out/In a rock and roll band" and "Majordomo Billy Bojangles/Sit down and have a drink with me/What's this about Alabama/Keeps comin' back to me?").

David Dodd's exhaustive study tells the story, song by song. Click here or on the image.