The folk hero appeal of Whiskey in the Jar

A Nip Against the Cold (oil on canvas) by Erskine Nicol 1869
A Nip Against the Cold

Because of its title, Whiskey in the Jar is often seen as a drinking song, celebrating the wild life.

That doesn’t really do it justice though. Whiskey in the Jar isn’t really about drinking at all; it’s about rebellion against authority and has a sub-plot involving betrayal by a lover. The highwayman in the story is a forerunner of many American folk heroes such as Jesse James.

The song’s themes of rebellion and betrayal strike a chord with people all over the world.

– as shown by the fact that it has become so popular through the performances of major rock bands like Metallica and Thin Lizzy.

Published by Patrick Kehoe

Pat Kehoe is a writer for Irish Music Daily. His favourite Irish music bands are the Dubliners and Planxty.

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