Black 47 Rocks Hard Against U.S. Iraq War


Kirwan despises George W. Bush’s war policy. “Our troops
have been betrayed by a bunch of grasping politicians who have cast
them into this morally indefensible, vanity war….. For rock
musicians, this war may well be a last chance to redeem our particular
art form and grant it some needed relevance and credibility,”
Kirwan declares in the final pages of his just-published musical

Suede Shoes

(Thunder’s Mouth Press, 2005). Kirwan and his
band Black 47 have also just released their antiwar song “Downtown
Baghdad Blues.” 

47, also known as the House Band of New York City for their 15-year
career of playing up to 120 shows a year, have challenged fans to
stay with them as they confront the U.S. regime’s policies
in their shows, turning each performance into a protest rally. “Yeah,
we do ‘Downtown Baghdad Blues’ live every night now, and
it splits the audience. Causes quite a stir,” Kirwan matter-of-factly
stated in a late March interview. 

his book, the Wexford-born Black 47 leader explains the song’s
context, and his band’s fierce antiwar stance: “Black
47 has always had a considerable body of its fans in the armed services;
we support them wholeheartedly, yet question why they have been
sent halfway around the world to get trapped in this quagmire. And
we refuse to be browbeaten into silence by chicken hawks and armchair
patriots who cry treason at the first sign of dissent.” 

47 takes its name from the awful year 1847, when a brutal government
policy killed thousands of Irish people; survivors cursed those
rulers and fought back any way they could. Kirwan recounts in

Suede Shoes

how he long ago vowed never to witness injustice
in silence. Black 47’s stance today is unflinching: “We’ve
spoken out against this travesty from the beginning, and suffered
the loss of many a fan and friend as a consequence. That’s
as it should be.  The purpose of a band like ours is to speak
its mind, regardless. Iraq is the defining issue of our time.” 

47 is perhaps the U.S.’s most raucous working class band and
its packed shows are wild, dancing affairs. “Take it to the
streets if you’re looking for redemption,” they roar in
one of their signature songs. Larry Kirwan’s rock n’ roll
faith takes fire as he raises his fist onstage, and in

Suede Shoes

he is serious about solidarity: “Music and
the right songs, if played with conviction, can still galvanize
large and small audiences and propel them toward activism. What
a need the United States has for a broader-based opposition to this
disastrous war in Iraq.”


Bill Nevins,
of Albuquerque, writes for

Dirty Linen, Transmission, HyperActive

and other magazines.