Performed by Black 47. Written by Larry Kirwan, lead singer of Black 47.
If you don’t know the song or the person, in a brief listen you’ll learn that James Connolly rose to prominence as a union organizer and socialist leader in Ireland and became one of the key figures in the Easter 1916 Uprising that sparked the Irish Revolution and led to independence from England.
It’s almost quaint to hear a rock song about a historical figure who died nearly 100 years ago. It would be akin to a song about Tom Paine, Thomas Jefferson or Ben Franklin. Yet the Black 47 song is no relic and no sentimental ballad about romanticized times. It’s a powerful anthem performed with great fervor and conviction, a tale of a mission and a man’s very personal plight, a tribute to one of the men who gave rise to an Independent Ireland, yet the whole point of the song is that Connolly’s work and dream didn’t die when killed by that firing squad at Kilmainham Jail. With horns, sax, crashing guitars and fist-pumping vocals, “James Connolly” calls to life the memory of the man and his cause and manages to both inspire and challenge.