The City of Chicago by Christy Moore - Maxicours

The City of Chicago by Christy Moore

Objectifs
  • Découvrir un aspect de la thématique d'étude migration et exil 
  • Découvrir l'œuvre d'un chanteur Irlandais folklorique engagé
Points clés
  • Christy Moore est un chanteur irlandais, politiquement à gauche, qui défend ses convictions et des causes par des textes engagés.
  • Sa chanson The City of Chicago traite de la vague de migration des années 1840 due à une grande famine qui sévit dans le pays :
    • Cette crise alimentaire aux conséquences catastrophiques fut causée par le mildiou, une maladie, qui détruisit les récoltes de pommes de terre. 
    • Les paroles évoquent les Irlandais qui durent quitter leur pays afin de survivre, leur nostalgie de la terre natale, et les espoirs déçus de l'Amérique.

Christy Moore, born in 1945, is a popular Irish folk singer whose songs deal with people involved in political or social struggles. The City of Chicago is about the Irish population of the 1840s who left Ireland because of the great potato famine. Written by Luka Bloom, the song appears on the album Ride On, released in 1984.

1. Christy Moore, a Committed Singer

Christy Moore is known in Ireland for his left-wing positions and he has never tried to hide them. They clearly appear in his songs. Indeed, he supported the nationalist prisoners during the Troubles, he has recorded songs written by the hunger striker Bobby Sands, he has written songs for the Irishmen who fought in the Spanish Civil War against Franco, he denounced the Bloody Sunday in Derry, he supported Mary Robinson in the presidential election of 1990... Christy Moore can be considered as an activist, not only a singer.

Mary Therese Winifred Robinson (born 21 May 1944) is an Irish politician who was elected President of Ireland from December 1990 to September 1997. She is the first woman to have held this office.
2. The Potato Famine
a. The “Blight”

The City of Chicago is about the Irish emigration following the Great Famine (or the Great Hunger) in Ireland in 1845-52, when the potato crop failed and led to the death of about 1 million people. Although potatoes had been introduced as a supplementary food rather than a principal meal, it soon became the most essential food for the poor then. But the arrival of a disease on the island, known as “blight”, caused serious losses and the situation became alarming. Crops were destroyed and the population started to starve. As over three million people depended on potatoes, hunger and famine was inevitable.

b. The Migration to the US

Those who did not die migrated to the US, another million people (Deadly pains of hunger drove a million from the land); they left their country to survive a long way from home as they could not stay there any longer. But of course they would rather have stayed in Ireland and the voyage they undertook was filled with pain:

They journeyed not for glory
Their motive wasn’t greed
A voyage of survival across the stormy sea

As Christy Moore explains, they settled across the ocean, on the east coast but also in Chicago, while dreaming of the hills of Donegal as is said in the first lines of the song. Donegal is a county located in the north-west of Ireland and was, with the south, the most affected region of the island. This is also the place where boats left for America and the last part of their country most of the migrants saw for the last time.

Yet America was not the Promised Land they could hope for for few knew fortune or fame and the lexical field of woe:

  • hardship,
  • died,
  • ease,
  • shadow,

makes it clear that their new life on the new continent was very difficult for the newcomers.

Even though this sad episode of Irish history started in 1845, Christy Moore tells us that 1847 was the year it all began, probably because the crisis was at its highest then, and we have to know that records indicate that in spite of the terrible situation peas, beans, rabbits, fish and honey continued to be exported from Ireland that year, even as the Great Hunger ravaged the countryside.

3. The City of Chicago

In the City of Chicago
As the evening shadows fall
There are people dreaming
Of the hills of Donegal

1847 was the year it all began
Deadly pains of hunger drove a million from the land
They journeyed not for glory
Their motive wasn’t greed
A voyage of survival across the stormy sea

To the City of Chicago
As the evening shadows fall
There are people dreaming
Of the hills of Donegal

Some of them knew fortune
Some of them knew fame

More of them knew hardship
And died upon the plain
They spread throughout the nation
They rode the railroad cars
Brought their songs and music to ease their lonely hearts

To the City of Chicago
As the evening shadows fall
There are people dreaming
Of the hills of Donegal

4. Conclusion

Like many Irish people, Christy Moore was shocked by this tragic episode that took place in Ireland in the middle of the 19th century and he decided to commemorate it in his song so as not to forget what happened then. The Great Potato Famine was the starting point of the Irish emigration to the USA, and today 10 % of its inhabitants are of Irish descent.

Here are some other tracks by Christy Moore that you can listen to:
– Minds Locked Up
– They Never Came Home

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