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Hard rock version of Johnny I Hardly Knew Ya

The Dropkick Murphys have had enormous success with the classic Irish anti-war song Johnny I Hardly Knew Ya, which they recorded in 2007.

Johnny I Hardly Knew Ya
Lyrics and chords

The song was one of the stand-out tracks on the album The Meanest of Times and has since become a concert favourite with the their fans.

It’s also one of the band’s most viewed videos on YouTube, with fans having uploaded several versions of the song.

Dropkicks make Johnny their own

Dropkick Murphys made Johnny I Hardly Knew Ya their own

Dropkick Murphys

The Dropkick Murphys dominate the playlist for Johnny I Hardly Knew Ya on YouTube. At one point, their recordings occupied the top five spots for the song, leaving other top artists far behind.

It’s not surprising that their version has proved so popular. Johnny I Hardly Knew Ya is essentially a protest song and so it fits in well with the political outlook of the band.

It’s also an angry and aggressive song that challenges authority, which makes it ideal material for the Dropkick Murphys.

From folk tune to driving rock

The Dropkick Murphys version of the song is quite distinct from recordings by other artists that went before. It builds up slowly over the first verse but then lurches into hard crashing chords played at breakneck pace to create a solid of wall of sound.

It may not be to the taste of some folk purists but the sense of anger and outrage the band create is certainly in keeping with the tone of song lyrics.

The Dropkick Murphys’ arrangement helped the song appeal to a whole new generation who might not have been interested in a more traditional folk style performance.

The band members come from Irish families

It’s no accident that the band recorded Johnny I Hardly Knew Ya. It was a song that most of them knew from childhood as they come from Irish families in the Boston area and were constantly being exposed to Irish music.

Singer Ken Casey said: “Growing up in Boston, every time you went to a wedding or a wake or your grandparents’ house, you heard that music. I went through a phase of hating it just because it’s what my folks listened to.”

Dropkick Murphys have recorded several Irish songs

The dislike soon faded and the band have gone on to record several classic Irish folk songs including Wild Rover, Whiskey in the Jar, Rocky Road to Dublin, Irish Rover, Foggy Dew and Finnegan’s Wake.

All have been performed in their trademark Celtic punk rock style, but none so have so far captured their the attention of their fans quite as much as Johnny I Hardly Knew Ya.

Johnny I Hardly Knew Ya
Dropkick Murphys version
Lyrics and chords