This is one of those posts that’s been rattling around in my head for a few years. Guess it’s time to get it out!
Whiskey in the Jar is a famous Irish traditional song that’s been interpreted by various artists over the decades. The Dubliners made it famous. The Grateful Dead did a version as did Thin Lizzy. Lastly, Metallica did a version of it in 1998 and won a Grammy for their efforts.
In the book The Folk Songs of North America, folk music historian Alan Lomax suggests that the song originated in the 17th century, and (based on plot similarities) that John Gay’s 1728 The Beggar’s Opera was inspired by Gay hearing an Irish ballad-monger singing “Whiskey in the Jar”. In regard to the history of the song, Lomax states, “The folk of seventeenth century Britain liked and admired their local highwaymen; and in Ireland (or Scotland) where the gentlemen of the roads robbed English landlords, they were regarded as national patriots. Such feelings inspired this rollicking ballad.”
First the Dubliners!
I do like the Dubliners’ version but I’m not happy that our hero gets taken without getting a shot off. If he’s going to end up in prison at least let him put up a good fight!
My favorite version, of course, is Metallica’s rendition. In this version our hero gets two shots off and ends up in prison. Hey, at least he went out in a blaze of glory!
For about six or maybe seven in walked Captain Farrell
I jumped up, fired my pistols, and I shot him with both barrels
…Now some men like a fishin’, but some men like the fowlin’
Some men like to hear, to hear the cannonball a-roarin’
But 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
God have mercy on Captain Farell!