Ireland despite it being a relatively small populated country has produced a large number of bands and individual musicians over the years. The strong folk music in the country has been successfully mixed with rock to create its own unique sounds. Few musicians can boast a career as long as Van Morrison’s. Hailing from Belfast he started his career in the 1960s playing a variety of instruments for different bands until he found himself as lead singer of “Them”, who were a rhythm and blues band. In 1967 he went solo and released “Brown Eyed Girl” which proved to be a massive hit. From this point his solo career blossomed and has now been going strong for four decades. As well as being knighted in 2016, he has also been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
The early 1970s saw the emergence of Thin Lizzy who mixed their hard rock style with catchy lyrics and even songs from Irish folk. The band was an eclectic mix that crossed religious and ethnic divides. The Dublin band were fronted by Phil Lynott, who was the first Black musician to have come out of Ireland. The band also contained members from both the protestant and catholic areas of Ireland. Staying inside Ireland the band created Celtic Rock which benefited hugely from the start that Thin Lizzy had given it. At the end of the 1970s two bands emerged from the country that played a major part in the rise of Punk Rock. The Undertones hailed from Derry and were led by Feargal Sharkey. They generally ignored the political troubles that were being suffered in Ireland, to produce songs about adolescence.
The Stiff Little Fingers were quite the opposite in their attitude and a lot of their records were an angry response to the troubles the country was experiencing. Hailing from Belfast, the band formed in 1977 and they made an immediate impact with their fast paced records. Their first album “Inflammable Material” proved to be a punk classic selling over 100,000 copies. They continue to perform over the years producing numerous albums but they were never as effective as they were when they first emerged. At the same time in Southern Ireland the Boomtown Rats appeared out of Dublin. They produced a number of hits between 1977 and 1983. Sadly over the years the quality of their music has been overshadowed by the celebrity profile of their lead singer Bob Geldof.
They were the first Irish rock band to achieve a Number 1 in the UK charts, which they did twice. However, Geldof’s role in Band Aid and his highly publicized private life, soon affected the fortunes of the band, and they were never able to maintain the standard of the music that they had produced at the start of their career. A band who has managed to maintain their success over a long career have been U2. Formed in Dublin in 1976 they started with a post punk style which has evolved over time. The founders members all met at school and within 4 years had signed with Island Records.
The group are a politically and socially conscious band who have united and alienated fans alike. While people have not always shared their views there are no doubts concerning the quality of their music. They have sold over 175 million records world-wide and have been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. The band’s sound has been dictated by lead singer Bono’s vocal and the riff set by lead guitarist “the edge”. Their 1988 album “The Joshua Tree” is often quoted as being one of the greatest rock albums ever and that record alone sold 25 million copies around the world.
Ireland has even produced the Pogues, the Cranberries and Sinead O’Connor. It has been a hot bed of rock music and has regularly unearthed world popular bands.