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Irish Songs and Singers to Remember

Updated on January 22, 2013

Irish Airs

With the advent of St. Patrick's Day and the sacrifices of Lent put away temporarily, we can enjoy memories of these past and present artists of song and dance. Hundreds of Irish singers and song writers have added a depth of artistic expression to history, culture, and music that is hard to describe and impossible to grasp in a single article.

They have influenced all in the United Kingdom and many in the United States, particlularly in Appalachia and Allegheny folk and blue grass melodies and dancing. They sang in the hills and they sang as they worked their way across America to the West Coast with the railroads.

These are a few from the past and the present.

John McCormack - The Minstrel Boy (Patriotic Song)

Operatic Star John McCormack, Contemporary of Caruso

The Irish Tenor sings "The Minstrel Boy" in the following video. This is an Irish patriotic song written in the laste 1700s by Thomas Moore. Moore set his lyrics to the Irish tune of "The Moreen."

Moore likely composed his lyrics to honro his friends at Trinity College in Dublin, Ireland. These young men had fought and died in the 1798 Rebellion of the United Irishmen.

Moore's lyrics became famous and popular to the extent that Irishmen fighting in the American Civil War also sang it. It was sung in World War I and World War II as well by Irish descendants. Today, choirs of the protective services - fire and police - in large cities still sing this song, even though they are no longer predominantly Irish, as they once were. It is often played on bagpipes as well by popers' associations at funerals, including at those for men and women in the protective services.

"Danny Boy" came to replace this song as an Irish Army favorite, but John McCormack's rendition is still widely known:

The minstrel boy to the war is gone,
In the ranks of death you'll find him;
His father's sword he hath girded on,
And his wild harp slung behind him ...

Isle of Hope, Isle of Tears

The Irish Tenors and the First Immigrant at Ellis Island

The Three Tenors became famous around the world in the 1970s - 1990s. Added to global renown later were The Irish Tenors: Finbar Wright, Anthony Kearns and Ronan Tynan.

Isle of Hope Isle of Tears, sung by The Irish Tenors, is about Annie Moore, an Irishwoman. Annie Moore became the first immigrant into America through Ellis Island in New York.

Moore emigrated from County Cork on the steamship Nevada and arrived in America oon January 1, 1892. She was 15. It was her birthday.

As the first person to be processed through Ellis Island, she was awarded a $10 gold piece. Phillip and Anthony moore, her brother ebtered afterher. It is unclear whether they were related to Thomas Moore, who wrote The Minstrel Boy.

The Irish Tenors include Olympic Champion, Doctor, and Irish Tenor: Ronan Tynan. With two leg protheses, Ronan Tynan won record numbers of Gold Medials in the 1984 and 1988 Summer Paralympics competitions and became a world class vocalist. One year after having problematic legs amputated, he was winning track and field competitions. He went on to become a physician specialist in Orthopedic Sports Injuries, but is best known as a singer. Incredibly, he won numerous cometitions to become a member of The Irish Tenors.

He is a real winner, a tribute to Ireland and America, and one of my heroes

The Three Irish Tenors

Dennis Day

Irish singer Dennis Day is connected to Jack Benny, as they worked on radio and TV for the entire duration of Benny's radio and TV career. Jack discovered Dennis in 1939 and employed him long-term as a singer and comic sidekick, rather like Batman's Robin. Dennis appeared with Jack until the latter's death in 1974 - 35 years, although Benny maintained that he was still only 39 (a running joke).

The clip below is a song that is an Irish comedy/novelty number, often performed by Dennis Day in his appearances.

Dennis Day: Clancy Lowered the Boom

Danny O'Day - Ventriloquist and Singer - Jimmy Nelson

Jimmy Nelson

Ventriloquist and singer Jimmy Nelson was also the television spokesman for the Nestles' candy company. His dog Farfel would sing,

"N-E-S-T-L-E-S, Nestle's makes the very best Choc - olate, " and snap his jaws shut.

A mistake on the first audition, the snapping jaw got Jimmy Nelson the job.

Nelson had his own TV show for kids every day Monday - Friday afternoons evenings called "Studio 99 1/2" New Jersey beginning in 1960. He also did guest appreances as well as the Nestle commercials.

Donald O'Connor

Donald O'Connor was the seventh child of Irish descended circus performers that had made it into vaudeville, which was "The Big Time" in early 20th century America. He bagan dancing and perform acrobatics at age 13 months on stage with his family. With various family members lost and added to the act, The O'Connor Family continued for years, perfroming a variety of entertainment right along with the Three Stooges.

O'Connor was driven to perform the most number of varied acts he could - to the point that one night he worked on a boken arm and did not realize it. He kept working hard and became famous as an actor, singer, and dancer on Broadway and in Hollywood.

In 1944, O'Connor was drafted into the US Army Special Forces, where he entertained troops oversees during World War II. After the war, he enjouyed many years of a long career that added television to the media he mastered.

Below is a clip from a film made in 1953, I Love Melvin.

For more information see Donald O'Connor.

Bing Crosby

 rriving in the middle of seven children to a Tacoma, Washington couple of Irish Descent, Bing Crosy later studied law in Spokane. He lost interest in that career, or never attained much law interest form the start.

He liked singing and playing the piano and drums. He was in a band early on and he and the piano player traveled to Los Angeles in 1925.IN not too many years, he was singing people through the Great Depression with saongs that dpwnplayed the need for money. After a series of "Road" picures with Bob Hope (The Road To...), he He won the Academy Award for best actor as the priest in Going My Way in 1944. The video below is an Irish song from that picture. 

For more about Bing Crosby and the game of golf, read the material from our HubMobster friend William F. Torpey.

The Cranberries

This contemporary Irish rock band came together in Limerick in 1990 with lead singer Dolores O'Riordan. The band performs alternative rock, indie/idie pop, rock, post-punk, and pop rock numbres. The Cranberries became internationallly known via their first album, Everybody Else Is Doing It, So Why Can't We? today they feel they succeed further than Sinead O'Connor may have doen in determination and meaning.

The group was one of the most successful rock acts of the 1990s with nearly 15 million albums sold in the US aside from other nations. They earned four Top 20 Albums recognition on the Billboard 200 Chart and eight Top 20 Singles on the Hot Modern Rock Tracks Chart.

The song presented here is Ode to My Family.

The Cranberries - Ode to My Family

Incredible Celtic Woman

Incredibly, in 2009 Celtic Woman is performing the Isle of Hope Nationwide Tour (begun February 13) to commemorate Annie Moore and Ellis Island as well as the contribution of the Irish to America. An International Tour will follow.

Begun in 2004, Celtic Woman has been in the Number 1 slot on Billboard World Music Charts for 95 consecutive weeks to break the former record. Their published music has gone Platinum in the US/South Africa and Gold in Australia/Japan. The vocalist women - Alex, Chloe, Lisa, Lynn, and Mairead - and other performers appear under the direction of Composer/Musical Director David Downes and Executive Producer Dave Kavanagh. A Gallery and Tour Dates are available at Celtic Woman.

Celtic Women - Caledonia

Comments and Blessings

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  • Angela McKeown profile image

    Angela McKeown 

    6 years ago

    Does anyone have any information on an Irish singer/yodeler by the name of Bert Mac (Robert Mclaughlin) From the 1920's to the 1960's thanks

  • Patty Inglish, MS profile imageAUTHOR

    Patty Inglish MS 

    8 years ago from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation

    Caledonia! - I love that one.

  • wtaylorjr2001 profile image

    William H Taylor 

    8 years ago from Binghamton NY

    This hub is incredible, a quality that should be aspired to. It has been well researched and presented in a truly professional manner. Thank you I enjoyed it quite a lot.

    I used to love a song called Look to the Rainbow from Finian's Dream. But now I've added Caledonia. I have learned a lot.

  • collegatariat profile image


    10 years ago

    This is such a wonderful collection of the my all-time favorite singers and songs. I'd also never heard of some of them, so thank you so much for the introduction; I shall enjoy getting to know them.

  • Patty Inglish, MS profile imageAUTHOR

    Patty Inglish MS 

    10 years ago from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation

    Pam, It is a pleasure to open my Internet window today and receive this message from you! My best to you and your family and I bet your pems are very very good.

    YouTube makes it possible for us to enjoy these scenes and tunes without having to crank up a stereo or rent DVDs and such. It's a miracle that brings us the Celtic traditions and the music is enough celeration all on its own. Thanks so much for writing and for your kind words!

  • BEAUTYBABE profile image


    10 years ago from QUEENSLAND AUSTRALIA.

    Hi Patty,

    I know it's been a while and I am so sorry about that. I have been really sick as a result of my disease and I have also been busy writing my poems. You probably also know that I have written two childrens books which are to be published around Easter.

    However, I just had to comment on this hub but to also say it is probably one of the best, if not the best and most enjoyable I have read since being a member of HP's.

    My mother's birthday happens to be on St. Patricks Day and I just love anything connected to the Irish, especially the Irish Actors, Singers and the old Donald O'Connor movies. Bing Crosy has always been a favourite of mine. I have a beautiful Christmas DVD which I have had so long now and I play it every year.

    I played all your U Tubes but being a singer myself, I have to say that the "Celtic Woman" would have to have been the one that really got to me with their renditions of "Amazing Grace" and "You Raise Me Up" both very special to me as well. In fact, the whole hub was just fantastic+++. Everything about it was wonderful in its own special way. Just so beautiful. Thank so much for this, I needed it just at the right time.

    I also have to say, even though it's a bit late, I hope you had a wonderful St. Patrick's day Patty, especially with the same name you deserve it.

    I shall try and write again soon Patty. I can just imagine what the celebrations were like in your house on St. P's Day. Well take care and God bless you and all your family.

    Love Beautybabe (Pam) x

  • profile image


    11 years ago

    I have belonged to the Irish community all my life, and I have a good voice. I have sung in chiors and I sing at home all the time. I have the burning desire to sing with a group. Who do I see???


  • Patty Inglish, MS profile imageAUTHOR

    Patty Inglish MS 

    12 years ago from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation

    Thanks for listing your favorites!

  • t.keeley profile image


    12 years ago from Philadelphia, PA

    I like your lists, but you missed...

    The Dubliners, Pogues, Chieftains, Clancy Brothers, Corrs, or Flogging Molly. All these bands are very irish, even in their musical styles. All are from Ireland and all use folk music as the major backdrop for their tunes. While Bing Crosby may be "irish" in name only, his style isn't really irish at all.

    'Course I could go on and list numerous non-irish bands that play irish music too, of which I have numerous hubs about but I won't go there. St. Patty's Day I'll be playing live for one of our member's Parish and it will have green beer. Got to be my favourite holiday ever!

  • Patty Inglish, MS profile imageAUTHOR

    Patty Inglish MS 

    12 years ago from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation

    Fun and profound at the same time!

  • Anna Marie Bowman profile image

    Anna Marie Bowman 

    12 years ago from Florida

    Great music, Patty!!! I love The Cranberries!!! I enjoyed listening to the other music as well!!

  • Patty Inglish, MS profile imageAUTHOR

    Patty Inglish MS 

    12 years ago from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation

    The Serendipity of it all emerged in the connections I began to find. I really want to see the Isle of Hope tour now now.

    Earth Angel - I, too, love all these songs and am glad to have offered them together.

    Cris - I just many have to do another Hub - I enjoy U2 very much as well.

    Willliam - I consider you are resident expert on Bing and golf, and was jumping up and down when I found the video clip I wanted! And you were able to SING Minstrel Boy! - That's an experience, for sure.

    Mighty Mom - The music is mezmerizing and I hope you enjoy it always. Cheers!

  • Mighty Mom profile image

    Susan Reid 

    12 years ago from Where Left is Right, CA

    Like Sinead O'Connor, Nothing Compares to this Hub:-). Love everything Celtic and wish to thank you for this loving tribute to lovely, lilting music. Thanks you, MM

  • William F. Torpey profile image

    William F Torpey 

    12 years ago from South Valley Stream, N.Y.

    Another great hub, Patty. It brings back many memories for me -- and I knew Bing Crosby would show up here! Barry Fitzgerald is an extra treat. We sang "Minstrel Boy" in music assembly at my grammar school. I still listen to Jack Benny and Dennis Day on Sirius Satellite radio. Donald O'Connor was underrated. I'm honored to have been referenced here, especially in the same sentence as Der Bingle. Wonderful video selections. Slán go foill

  • Cris A profile image

    Cris A 

    12 years ago from Manila, Philippines

    Great music here! And may I add U2 and The Corrs to the list? Thanks for sharing :D

  • Earth Angel profile image

    Earth Angel 

    12 years ago

    Ahhhhhhhhhh, what a lovely little stroll down Irish lane!!

    GREAT Hub Patty!! YOU are just the BEST!!

    Blessings always, Earth Angel!!


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