Songs I Love: Luke Kelly – On Raglan Road

Having recently discovered YouTube* and spent/wasted quite a bit of time watching music videos. I have decided that it would be a good idea if I share some of my favourites with you and try to explain why exactly I like them.

The first song I want to introduce you to is Luke Kelly’s version of Raglan Road.

Luke Kelly was one of original members of the Irish group The Dubliners. He played the five-string banjo and sang in his distinctive voice.

The song came about when the poet Patrick Kavanagh who wrote the words heard Luke singing in a pub and asked him if he would like to put the words to music. They set the poem to the music of the traditional song “The Dawning of the Day” (Fáinne Geal an Lae) and one of the great Irish songs was born. That’s the background. So what is it that I love about the song?

It is a love song. It tells the story of a love affair that was probably doomed from the start through to its conclusion in four verses. It is a sad song, the love the writer had for the girl, either wasn’t expressed in terms she could relate to or wasn’t returned.

“That I had wooed not as I should a creature made of clay”

It is also a song that affirms the belief “That it is better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all”

Of course there is also Luke Kelly’s marvelous liquid voice that makes you believe that this is exactly how it happened.

The full poem can be found here

Many other singers have recorded the song and I have included a couple of links to other versions that I like.

Sinead O’Connor

Mark Knopfler
I’m not quite so sure about this one but I’ve included it for contrast.
Rodger Daltry and the Chieftains

*Obviously I knew of the existence of YouTube but I had previously thought of it as a place to see piano playing cats instead of a source of real music.


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