Saturday, 21 March 2020

Celtic Crush Top 100 Songs 2020

Does music influence society or does society influence music?

If you take a look at the Top 20 charts from the 1950’s you might think that Doo-Wop and early Rock & Roll swept all before them; yet Miles Davis captured a moody, dissenting streak that has little to do with the popular image of those placid Eisenhower years.

In Ireland Bridie Gallagher and various Céilí bands were the standard fare as people were forced to emigrate in droves, but musicians were already kicking aside their music stands and forming showbands.

I’ve been hosting and producing Celtic Crush, a three-hour music/talk show on SiriusXM for 14 years now. The show is heard all over the US and Canada, and became international with the advent of the SiriusXM App.

I play roughly 40 songs a show in sets of three and talk about them from a historical, political and social point of view, but as the commentary is improvised the kitchen sink is often tossed in the mix. 

Every couple of years I take the pulse of the audience by inviting them to vote for their favorite Celtic songs.

Broadly speaking these songs come from the music of the 8 Celtic nations and their various diasporas. 

In essence I favor the song not the singer. I’m always on the lookout for what I call future classics - songs from unknowns or singers/groups with niche appeal that I can bring to a broader audience.

This year the audience submitted roughly 250 songs as their listening favorites. 

Given our fractious times I had expected that Celtic Punk songs – of which there are many adherents - would be favored.

Instead, the Top 10 songs tended towards the beautiful and reflective, the lesser known, and often the most melancholic.

In fact I would imagine the #1 song - When You Become Stardust Too by Shay Healy is rarely heard except on Celtic Crush.

It’s a wonderfully optimistic reflection on life and the hereafter and seems to have struck a deeply personal chord with listeners.

As if that wasn’t enough, there was a tie for #2 between two other very reflective tunes.

I devoted a column to Eva Cassidy recently and this is her year on Celtic Crush as four of her songs placed in the Top 100. Fields of Gold her interpretation of Sting’s classic is #2.

Perhaps the biggest surprise at joint #2 is Aisling Gheal from The Poet & The Piper, the mighty collaboration between Seamus Heaney and Liam O’Flynn.

The melody summonses up the devastation of the Irish people during the Penal Laws era but it’s also informed by an untrammeled hope for better days. 

Lest you think the show is funereal #4 and #5 are the irrepressible Whiskey in the Jar by Thin Lizzy and the celebratory Whole of the Moon by The Waterboys. Rounding off the Top 5 is the only overtly political song to make the Top 20 this year, the militant James Connolly by Black 47.

Of interest to New Yorkers, Pat McGuire’s You’re So Beautiful is at #7 and master fiddler Tony DeMarco enters for the first time at #9 with The Best Years of My life.

The perennially popular Pogues score at #11 and #13 with Fairy Tale of New York and Rainy Night in Soho while Van Morrison’s top song this year is Tupelo Honey at #16.

What does all this suggest – perhaps a desire to block out the raucous lies and exaggeration of political discourse with songs that have a deep human resonance and an innate beauty. 

Since two of the three most popular songs are new entries you’d have to say that there’s also a desire for change.

Change would appear to come slowly, however, for I’ve been playing the top three songs for years. 

I wonder what all this says about the state of our society and the coming elections? 

It’s hard to say, but given our original question - Does music influence society or does society influence music? This year I’d have to go with the latter.

To receive the Top 100 write me at or visit Christopher Carroll’s Fans of Celtic Crush at Facebook. Celtic Crush can be heard on Sunday mornings at 9amET on The Loft, Ch. 710, SiriusXM with repeats on Tuesday 9pm and Wednesday Midnight.

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