By Brendan Landers

The old music-hall song Finnegan’s Wake was made famous by The Dubliners and Ronnie Drew, whose gravelly voice has been compared to the sound of a Coca-Cola bottle being crushed underneath a closing wooden door.

The song is also noted for providing the basis for James Joyce’s famously impenetrable novel of the same name.

There’s another connection between The Dubliners and Joyce in that the balladeers were originally called the Ronnie Drew Ballad Group but they didn’t like that name and were trying to think of another. They came up with the new moniker when Luke Kelly took to reading Joyce’s collection of short stories, Dubliners.

The rest is history.

This connection is but one example of how Joyce has not only achieved legendary status in the international literary canon, but, like Ronnie Drew and Luke Kelly, he has become inextricably knitted into the fabric of Irish life and popular culture.
Van Morrison, in his song Too Long in Exile, compares himself to Joyce with the line, “Been too long in exile, just like James Joyce, baby.”

The Pogues drew inspiration from a classic 1929 photograph of Joyce to create the montage of photos of themselves and the writer that appeared on the sleeve of their album If I Should Fall from Grace with God. Even further afield, in the United States, the 1960s rock band Jefferson Airplane drew extensively from Ulysses for their song Rejoice.

Continue reading in this week’s Ireland’s Own