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History of Irish Pop Music
by Alex Cosper (3/17/12)


Irish pop music has grown out of a mix of Irish folk music and a melting pop of music from around the world. U2 rose from Dublin to popularity in the 1980s and has since been the nation's most popular recording artist. Other big names to make it to the world stage from Ireland have included Van Morrison, The Cranberries, The Corrs, Sinead O'Connor, Enya, Clannad, The Dubliners, The Irish Rovers and Loreena McKennitt. Some U.K. bands that have paid homage to Ireland include Wings, The Pogues, Dexy's Midnight Runners and Simple Minds. The Waterboys were an 80s/90s band with members from Scotland, Ireland and England. The influence of traditional Irish music in America is felt mainly in country and bluegrass music, as fiddles and banjos have been key instruments. This music traces back to Celtic folk.

Historically, due to violence from the tensions between the U.K., Northern Ireland and Ireland, there have been many political songs from artists around the world to address these problems. The main conflict has been between British Protestants of Northern Ireland and Irish Catholics of Ireland. A third group called Irish Republicans are Catholics who lean toward Socialism and want Northern Ireland to be liberated from the United Kingdom. This group has been divided between violent and peaceful factions.

The songs "Zombie" by the Cranberries and "Sunday Bloody Sunday" by U2 have been protests against violence by the diminished terroritst group the Irish Republican Army. The very first single from Paul McCartney's band Wings was called "Give Ireland Back to the Irish" and was banned in Britian by the BBC, yet made the British top 20 while hitting number one in Ireland in 1972. The song was a protest against IRA bombings. The U.K. band The Pogues were sympathetic to peaceful Irish Republicans.

The song "Belfast Child" was the biggest worldwide hit in the career of Scottish group Simple Minds in 1989. Its somber lyrics are sympathetic to the victims of bombings in Belfast, Northern Ireland. The song borrows the melody of the Irish folk classic "She Moved Through the Fair," which has been recorded by several artists including U.K. band Fairport Convention. While the Republic of Ireland has welcomed protest songs that support Ireland as a free state, the nation has banned rebel songs from its airwaves that support the U.K.'s occupation of Northern Ireland since 1921. A rebel song called "A Nation Once Again," which was written in the 1840s, became a big hit for the Wolfe Tones and was voted top song in the world in 2002 by the BBC World Service audience.

The music industry in Ireland is represented by the Irish Recorded Music Association (IRMA), which oversees ChartTrack, the company that generates the Republic of Ireland's official music charts. The nation's singles chart began on October 1, 1962 as RTE kicked off a top ten radio show that evolved into a top 40 countdown. In 2013 most of Ireland's chart is a reflection of international artists, including big acts from America. For a thorough history of the Irish pop charts visit Irish Charts, researched by Larry Gogan. Prior to 1992 the Irish charts were based on retail shipments. Then in 1992 Gallup began electronic tracking of consumer sales from 60 stores. In 1996 IRMA helped Gallup start a more elaborate electronic survey called ChartTrack, which now tracks nearly 400 retail outlets.

As 2013 U2 held the record for most number one hits in Ireland, with a total of 19, from 1985 through 2006. The Beatles had 13 number one hits from 1963 through 1969, tied with Westlife, whose chart toppers spanned from 1999 through 2006. ABBA and Cliff Richard round out the top five. The biggest hit of all time came from the U.K. by Elton John, which was "Something About The Way You Look Tonight/Candle In The Wind 97." The biggest hit to come from a native Irish act has been "Riverdance" by Bill Whelan from 1994. Other huge hits from Irish acts have included "There's A Whole Lot Of Loving Going On" by Six from 2002, "Maniac 2000" by radio star Mark McCabe and "Galway Girl" by accordion/fiddle player Sharon Shannon & Mundy.

See also:

How to start a music project
Tips on how to produce music
Job of a live sound engineer
Affordable ways to promote music online
How songs become popular











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