I have a hard time applying myself to something unless I know why I’m doing it. Songwriting is something I’ve had to come back to repeatedly as I continue to ask myself “Why am I doing this?” “What’s the point?” A few months ago I took time again to put down on paper what exactly I was going to try to accomplish by writing songs. One of the things I put down was “to preserve history through songs”. This certainly is not a groundbreaking concept in the songwriting arena…Many of the Psalms and poetry contained in the Bible are a preservation of the history of Israel. Early American folk songs preserved the memory of meaningful events, such as those found on one of Decca’s earliest albums, a compilation titled, Badmen, Heroes, and Pirates, which pays homage to folk legends who fought against injustice.
People have been writing and singing about their past from the beginning, but it is a little more intimidating than it used to be. Long ago groups of people all held basically the same beliefs about certain past events, and affirmed those beliefs through their cultural expressions. But now, even seeing is not necessarily believing. There’s CGI, and Photoshop. There are people out there trying to dupe us to serve their own ends, so we must be suspicious. Anything can be called into question. So as a modern day songwriter, I sure don’t want to be the guy who writes a song about how great William Shakespeare was, only to discover to my embarrassment that scholars have decided unequivocally that William Shakespeare, in fact, did not write the works of William Shakespeare (some people believe this, btw).
But I love history, I love learning more of it, and I believe some historical events and figures actually happened/existed, are meaningful, worth preserving, and can speak meaningfully to us in our time.
However, it wasn’t really an articulate thought process that led me to write and record “The Story of St. Patrick”. It was green beer. It was corned beef. It was leprechauns. If March 17th were called “American Perception of Irish Celebration Day” it wouldn’t have bothered me. I know, I know, nearly all the histories behind our holidays have been completely obfuscated by commercialization. But, by jimminy, it’s called “St. Patrick’s Day” and nobody was talking about St. Patrick, so I needed to write this song.