The 8 Best Whiskey Songs
Besides love, sex, and breakups, we can include booze as among the most favorite subject matters of some of our greatest music writers. After all, when you find yourself deeply entangled in these facets of our very being, somehow liquor plays a significant role in the celebration of two uniting as one or the “un-celebration” of a split-up.
Whiskey, in this regard, is not exempt as the focus of many songs whether in the lyrics – sometimes even occupying a title role. And why not? Music writing seems all too natural as the writer’s mind take him to a scenario of two people in love, with drinks in their hands, enjoying each other; or two in lust, – carousing in some stolen moments’ pleasure. Let us not forget to mention the natural likelihood of drowning (in whiskey) the sorrows afterwards!
We often associate a fifth of whiskey or some alcohol, and drugs with the depraved way of life of most rock singer artists. Hence, the descriptive word “rock star image”. When you hear the names of Jim Morrison or Axl Rose, what usually comes to your mind first? Do you remember their music right away? At the very core, besides their music, we remember them most by the way they lived or as some would agree, how they wasted their lives.
Whiskey is also the source of inspiration for some of the most unforgettable music in the rock n’ roll genre. In the most literal sense, we have blasted the rock n’ roll universe with a manifold of music releases that express the pleasures of whiskey. This music genre definitively shows the significant role this fire spirit plays in the midst of our celebrations and most troublesome times.
Here are some of the most unforgettable music tracks that articulate about whiskey and everything else we love, adore, curse, and hate about it.
1. Whiskey in the Jar by Thin Lizzy
If we center the topic of discussion to Irish whiskey songs, we’ll have “Whiskey in the Jar” topping the list. The song does have a long history, though. It dates as far back as 1650 — a time that a certain Patrick Flemming, a highwayman, was arrested. He got executed for several heinous crimes. It included several cases of murders.
By the year 1680, his story peaked a different level of popularity. It became an urban legend and wound up in a song entitled “Patrick Flemmen He Was a Valiant Soldier”. In the passing of years and the natural course of the folk process, different versions of the story sprung up. It reached a point that there is now no definitive version of the song.
Like any other song that became a classic tune in its genre, Thin Lizzy’s was pure serendipity. It never crossed their mind to have it in their then-upcoming 1972 album. The members of the group were trying to relax from their rehearsal. They were humming up a couple of random stupid tunes. Then, their band manager Ted Carroll, overheard them goofing around the song. He quipped that they could use the song as an excellent addition to their album. He suggested they record it.
The original plan then was to have it as part of the B side for their album, “Black Boys in the Corner”. Eventually, their record company made the final decision to have the song on the A-side, instead.
The song landed to spot number 6 in the UK hit charts after its release. They enjoyed the limelight for that same year. It was all success for the group and the song, even though controversy surrounded it. Conservatives say that the track was too radical. Furthermore, the Irish people seemed to have more liking for the earlier version of another group, Dubliners.
Now, we go fast forward to 1998. Metallica recorded their interpretation for this song, including it in their “Garage Inc. ” album. There are several other notable versions for this song. Aside from The Dubliners, U2, The Pogues, Pulp, and Smokie made their respective releases, too. While there are some variations to the lyrics of the song, most of them adopted the Thin Lizzy words.
2. Whiskey Rock-A-Roller” by Lynyrd Skynyrd
This hit song from Lynyrd Skynyrd hit the radio airwaves on March 24, 1975, under their “Nuthin Fancy” album. They also happen to have two other recordings for this song which is in their live album, One More From the Road. One funny tale that the band shared with fans while recording one of those tracks is that Ronnie Van Zant completely forgot the song. In a frenzied manner, he had to ask his backup singers, a group by the name of the Honketts, what the song is. Now with the other live version, Ronnie this time decided to alter the opening lyrics of the song. He adlibbed this line instead, “I’m travelling down a highway, got a blue sky on my head, movin’ down this highway 500 miles away. ”
Here’s a fast fact about this band though. Did you know that all of its members came together from one school in Jacksonville, Florida? They had a gym teacher then by the name of Leonard Skinner. He made a demand from them, who are still very young boys then, to get themselves a good haircut. Otherwise, he is not willing to accept them again in his class. This incident spurred them to leave school for good. Eventually, the band was formed and named it after their former gym teacher. They intentionally loosely altered his name so that in case he found out, Mr Skinner won’t be able to sue them.
3. “Deacon Blues” by Steely Dan
A true-blue fan of Steely Dan and his music would always remember the very first time they heard his sound – intentionally listened and paid attention to it and not just heard it. It would be hard not to take notice of Donald Fagen and Walter Fager’s anachronistic style of lyrics, discerning session musicians, jazz spanning compositional technique, and an impeccable studio craft — which, concerning the accepted standards of that time, raised the level of popular bar music through the ceiling.
Deacon Blues was their best-loved and most well-known song. It is also among those rare productions that are being used to put an audiophile listening equipment to a technical test. Certainly, there are a few good reasons why audiophiles prefer to make use of Steely Dan’s recordings when they need to put their new speakers to a sound quality check. Everybody sees them as the most sonically sophisticated pop act of this century, not just artistically but also in the technical sense.
“They call Alabama the Crimson Tide
Call me Deacon Blues”
It is the catchy, curious chorus line of the song — a point in time when everyone saw the University Of Alabama as the football powerhouse. They won the 1973 National Championship, losing only a game from each of the next two seasons — all under the direction of coach Paul Bryant. Alabama’ other also known by the name of “The Crimson Tide, a bold name which Steely Dan’s Donald Fagen and Walter Becker find amusing.
All the while, everyone thought that the “Deacon” was about the “Demon Deacons” of the Wake Forest University. This football team struggled throughout the ’70s. From 1972-1975, the team managed to have seven wins only. From Fagen himself, he asserted that name came from Deacon Jones. He was the star football player of Rams and Chargers whose outsized personality and aggressive playing style earned for him the interest and the attention of the local media. He’s got a name that fits so well into the song, and “Deacon” is a sonic match with “Crimson”.
Now as for the song’s opening line, “This is the day of the expanding man,” Falger says that they took their inspiration from a 1953 science-fiction novel by Alfred Bester, The Demolished Man. The book has illustrated its main character as “expanding” his mind. He is exploring all the various possibilities that he can make happen to his life. When they were about to complete the song, both Fagen and Becker mutually agreed to have a sax solo. Cohesively, they only have one specific music in mind for this purpose. It is the tenor sax we hear before The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson goes to commercial.
4. One Bourbon, One Scotch, One Beer by George Thorogood
In John Lee Hooker’s version, the figure in the song is desperately missing his girlfriend. As his last resort, he wanted to forget everything and drown down his sorrows in alcohol instead. Now, with Thorogood’s version, besides the character’s misfortune of his girlfriend not being physically around when he needed her the most, the chap is also out of money, without a job and couldn’t pay his rent and thus, not even have a place to sleep!
5. Alabama Song by The Doors
Initially, the text of this song was for a German opera, which was penned by Kurt Weill and Bertolt Brecht in 1929. But the song became even more controversial after it is was used in “The Rise And Fall Of The City Of Mahogany”, a German operetta in the 1930s.
In the operetta, it tackled sensitive themes such as illicit pleasures. Likewise, materialism and despair played out into the operetta but became the more prevailing theme in the version by The Doors. By an unfortunate twist of events, the lyrics of the song became a self-fulfilling prophecy and took on a deeper level of meaning over the years as Jim Morrison’s dependence and abuse of drugs became more and more apparent, eventually becoming public knowledge.
The group derived their inspiration for this song from a compilation of German songs which one of their keyboard players, Ray Manzarek, had shown them. In 2001, the few surviving members of the group agreed to tape an episode for the production of VH1 Storytellers. The staff of the show also feature guest vocalists who used to fill in for Jim Morrison. In 2002, Ian Astbury finally consented to join Robby Krieger and Ray Manzarek. It culminated to a concert tour, naming it as “The Doors of the 21st Century”.
Mr Ian Astbury fronted for the group until 2007. However, the group was forced to change their name. It was after John Densmore, the original band drummer filed a lawsuit against them and won the case. The group was able to complete 150 shows.
6. Whiskey Lullaby by Brad Paisley
The song is a collaboration of Brad Paisley with Allison Kraus, who agreed to sing the song in a duet with him. In addition to this, Kraus also displayed her other musical gift here by playing the viola for the track. The song depicts the tragic story of a couple. The husband went to war, who upon his return found his wife with another man. Despair took the best of him and drank himself to death. He left a note behind, professing that he still loved his wife.
In the succeeding verses, the wife deeply mourned her loss. She felt guilty and extreme sadness also took over. Like her husband, she drank herself to death holding a picture of him. It paints a sad picture of the consequences of war – in our soldiers’ lives.
7. Have a Drink on Me by AC/DC
Just like any other song from AC/DC, “Have a Drink on Me” is another track that deals with drinking alcohol. We have known this group for their notoriety in creating tracks about drinking alcoholic beverages. They continued doing so even after the sudden demise of Bon Scott, the group’s original lead singer. This song from the group speaks about a guy who wants to buy a drink for his buddy, but he won’t allow him.
8. “Whiskey’n Mama” by ZZ Top
During their entire career as rock artists, ZZ Top never tried to shy away from their penchant for good booze and their life-long love affairs with beautiful women. However, with this track “Whiskey’n Mama”, it is clear which of the two outweighs the other. The lyrics are written to depict a guy who fell for the wrong woman. But there is also the probability that our hero here is just nursing a hell of a hangover, “I should have known better than to fool with a whiskey’n mama.”
Above is our collection of the best whiskey songs from the classic rock genre. Some of them might belong to a bygone era, others have come out only recently. Hearing them all over again may make you reminisce about past times. But they all have one common denominator. All these tracks remind us about how this favorite distilled spirit can have a good or adverse effect on us. But we have the full liberty, though, to choose. Discernment of the repercussion will help make you see what you ought to see. After all, we will all pay for whatever wrong choices we make. We know that a wild, hazy fun evening, as innocent as we’d like to believe, can potentially lead to a lifetime of regrets and what-ifs – just like that!