Bob Dylan on The Clancy Brothers and Irish Music

The Clancy Brothers Bob Dylan

The Clancy Brothers influence on Bob Dylan.

The Clancy Brothers were contemporaries of Bob Dylan, and they became friends as they played the clubs of Greenwich Village in New York in the early 1960s. Howard Sounes in his biography of Dylan describes how Dylan listened to the Clancys singing Irish rebel songs like “Roddy McCorley” which he found fascinating, not only terms of their melodies but also their themes, structures and storytelling techniques. Although the songs were about Irish rebels, they reminded Dylan of American folk heroes. He wanted to write songs on similar themes and with equal depth.

Dylan stopped Liam Clancy and Tommy Makem in the street one day in early 1962 and insisted on singing a new song he had written to the tune of “Brennan On The Moor,” a song from the eponymous Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem album on Tradition Records. It was called “Rambling, Gambling Willie” and was Dylan’s attempt to replicate Irish folk heroes in an American context. Dylan continued to use the melodies of songs from the Clancys’ repertoire for his own lyrics several more times, including “The Leaving of Liverpool” for “Farewell To You My Own True Love,” “The Parting Glass” for “Restless Farewell,” and “The Patriot Game” for “With God on Our Side.”

In an interview with U2’s Bono from 1984, Dylan recalled: “Irish music has always been a great part of my life because I used to hang out with the Clancy Brothers. They influenced me tremendously.” Later in the interview he added, “One of the things I recall from that time is how great they all were—I mean there is no question, but that they were great. But Liam Clancy was always my favorite singer, as a ballad singer. I just never heard anyone as good.”
Dylan never forgot his debt to the Clancys, which is why he invited them to perform at his 30th anniversary concert at Madison Square Garden. It was Dylan’s wish that the party after the concert be held at Tommy Makem’s Irish Pavilion, a Manhattan pub owned by Makem. At the exclusive party, attended by George Harrison and Eric Clapton among others, Liam Clancy tentatively asked Dylan if he would mind if the Clancys recorded an album of his songs, arranged in a traditional Irish style. Far from minding, Dylan was flattered by the idea: “Man, would you do that? Would you?” He added, “Liam, you don’t realize, do you, man? You’re my fucking hero.” Although the group never made an entire album of Dylan’s music, two of his songs, “When the Ship Comes In” and “Rambin’ Gamblin’ Willie”, appeared on the final Clancy Brothers album, Older But No Wiser, three years later. The 1997 eponymous Clancy, O’Connell, and Clancy album also contained a Dylan number, “Restless Farewell”.

source : wikipedia

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