Celtic music popularity

I just saw a commercial (for a credit card? Football was in it.) that featured some Veltic-sounding music. I like The Pogues, Boiled In Lead, Flogging Molly, and so on; so maybe I’m just wired to ‘hear’ Celtic music when it’s used.

  1. Is there more Celtic music an American popular culture nowadays?

  2. If there is, then when did it happen?

The Clancy Brothers often get credit for bringing Irish music to a US national audience. They were on Ed Sullivan in 1961, so that seems as good a date as any to say that Irish music went mainstream in the US, though I’m sure there was interest before then (has anyone coined the term “Celtic Invasion” yet?).

As to why, I’d say its a combination of 1960’s era interest in folk and traditional music and the coming of age of a generation of relatively well to do Americans whose parents and grandparents were Irish immigrants that had worked their way up from the lower classes, and thus were interested in their roots and had money to spend on records.

I share with you the wonder and joy that is Empty Hats.

For another example, one of the background songs in many Battlestar Galactica episodes had a very Celtic sound to it.

Celtic pride really took off when Dublin hosted the EuroVision contest in 1994. That’s when Riverdance debuted.

1.) Yes, I’d say there definitely is.

2.) It was late 2002-early 2003 when my very trendy sister came to me with a Dropkick Murphys album. I’d say that right around then is when the Celto-rock-punk came to the mainstream. Maybe a couple of years before, perhaps even as far back as when Riverdance got big (though that was a lot more traditional).

The traditional stuff’s always been somewhat popular in certain circles.

Also, yay for Boiled in Lead!

  1. Should be ‘in’, not ‘an’.

L.A. college station KXLU used to play Shamrock Shore frequently back in the late-'80s/early-'90s. :slight_smile:

Funnily enough most Celtic music is more popular abroad than in Ireland/Scotland. While there are indigenous bands like The Pogues say, ie Blood or Whiskey, they’re not all that popular. Celtic music seems to thrive in America, particularly Celtic punk but hereabouts, apart from Dropkicks et al, it’s not that big.

Americans tend to be very proud of their Irish heritage. People of Irish descent in Boston (IME only, and I’ve only been there once and knew a couple in California) seem especially proud of it. So it’s not surprising that Celtic music, especially Irish, would be popular here.

There’s a whole subgenre of Celtic music for “homesick songs”, by or about immigrants who came to America to get jobs “just for a little while”, who never ended up going back home to Ireland. One wouldn’t really expect those to have much traction, back in the old country.

Yes indeed! I first saw/heard BiL when they opened for Camper Van Beethoven and became an instant fan. Man, there’s hardy any Boiled In Lead on YouTube. I’m gonna have to do something about that and put up some early stuff.

Ah, those songs in the past were popular, just compared to modern pop they’re not that big a section of music here. I think the going home songs can work as nostalgic songs for those who never really left a place.

Huh, I’ve never heard of Boiled in Lead but I love the Pogues, so I’ll buy one of their albums when I get the money.

The whole Celtic thing seems to have followed the success of Enya’s ethereal (or woozy) singing, and, somewhat later, Michael Flatley’s convincing people that if one person doing step dancing is good, a battalion must be better. The word “Celtic” has been a big moneymaker ever since, especially for PBS, which trots out someone like Loreena McKennitt or the gawdawful Celtic Thunder (not to be confused with an earlier group of the same name, which was merely bland) for fundraisers.

Before that, there was a pretty good audience for Irish and Scottish folk music, as performed by The Chieftains (Irish), Planxty (Irish), The Bothy Band (Irish), The Boys of the Lough (Shetland Islands), The Oyster Band (English), Silly Wizard (Scottish) and many others. I personally love that stuff, so I might think it’s more popular than it is. There was also, and still is, Breton folk music, which is all but overlooked in the US, but has some fine performers, such as harpist Alan Stivell and guitarist Dan Ar Bras. And, of course, the punkoid offerings of The Pogues, Dropkick Murpheys, and the like.

Before that there were acts like The Clancy Brothers (usually with Tommy Makem), which had some popularity, and which later morphed into the duo of Tommy Makem and Liam Clancy, who are mainly remembered for their definitive version of “The Band Played Waltzing Matilda.”

Before that, I can’t think of much of anything except Maureen O’Hara pounding out old chestnuts like “When Irish Eyes Are Smiling” and “My Wild Irish Rose,” both American songs (see Chauncey Olcott). And there’s always been a market for Irish tenors, the greatest of which was probably John McCormack, who did the same songs earlier in the century.

I have no idea how the popularity of all the above compares among countries. America has more people of Irish extraction than anywhere else, including Ireland, so it’s the motherlode. I’d imagine there’s a fair market in Canada and Australia as well. Scottish Gaelic music apparently doesn’t sell too much, which is a shame, because singers like Julie Fowlis are wonderful.

I’m an old enough geezer that I can remember this. First there was the Weavers (Good Night, Irene) and Leadbelly (the Rock Island Line) and Harry Belafonte (the Banana Boat Song) and the Kingston Trio (the Sloop John B) all springing into public consciousness in about 1958. Lots of labor agitation and Carribean songs but not much Celtic stuff. Then the Clancys and Tommy Makem sort of appeared out of nowhere. While there was all sorts of Irish Eyes, Mother Macree, Danny Boy and Galway Bay stuff floating around none of us had been exposed to Rebel Songs and old Irish and Scottish ballads until the Clancys showed up. By the time the boyos appeared on the Ed Sullivan Show they already had a considerable popular following. For me popular and authentic Celtic starts with the Clancy Brothers’ and Makem’s “The Rising of the Moon” (and for a signal token whistle up the marching tune, for the pikes must be together by the rising of the moon). I think that they are all gone now. God bless ‘em.

River Dance and its off-spring are Celtic Lawrence Welk. Annoy me not with that weak derivative crap.

Not quite. Liam Clancy is still performing, or at least was until quite recently. I believe he’s been ill of late, but have no details.

I think it was NPR’s Fiona Ritchie that started bring a wide variety of Celtic music to the masses about 25 years ago. She introduced me to a number of groups and individuals I would never have heard of any other way.

Resonates with my blood somehow, more so than any other music I’ve heard.

Hmmmm, it depends on where you are and what you think “Celtic Music” actually is. I lived in the west of Ireland for years and there certainly was a lot of traditional music (i.e. pub sessions with fiddles, pipes, accordeons etc) being played, if even tourists probably overestimate the level of interest in general.

Poppy folky stuff like Mundy’s Galway Girl:


or the Saw Doctors’ N17:


is also enduringly popular in the west.

Though arguably both songs are musically largely American in style.

I was intrigued by the Irishy sounds on Galactica, as well, btw.

He just died. :frowning:

Ok, you can name a few songs, I can name a few more, say by The Wild Swans or Natural Gasbut by and large this sound doesn’t sell in Ireland. It really doesn’t by comparison with other forms of pop music. The Saw Doctors are still popular but there was always a whiff of the novelty about them and that’s speaking of a fan. Galway Girl was originally done by Steve Earle nearly two decades ago and has a revival in recent years but if you go to a disco this will be the only “Celtic” song you’ll hear usually. And as you say both the songs you mentioned have a very American sound. There are of course guys like Damien dempsey who combines elements of reggae with Irish trad and balladry but although he is a huge draw live I’m not too sure how he does on radio play or record sales.