An Irish ceremony/party held to celebrate/mourn the passing of a relative or friend over the Atlantic Ocean. This term derives from the period of mass emigration from Ireland in the second half of the nineteenth century. About a million Irish people emigrated following the Great Famine, and for most it was strictly a one way trip. To those left behind, the emigration of a loved one was akin to his/her death, as there was no prospect of ever seeing him/her again in this world.

For this reason, it became common to extend the same ceremonies to emigrants as to corpses, and a party in the form of a wake was held to see the emigrant off, and to help those left behind come to terms with their loss. This type of party became known as the American Wake.

Nowadays, of course, emigration is far from final, and the sense of loss is much dimmed as a result, but an emigrant's sending-off party is still sometimes facetiously referred to as his/her American Wake.

I believe that the following song by Black 47 captures the spirit of an American Wake perfectly. In my opinion, one of the the all time greatest weepy end of night pub songs, ranking up there with Fairytale of New York, The Fields of Athenry and their ilk. This song, when coupled with the music and Larry's anguished voice, strikes you with such a sense of loss that your heart can't help but break, your hips can't help but sway, and your glass can't help but raise. On another note, what other lead singer of a somewhat famous band can you expect to reply to your email regarding lyric posting 15 minutes later at 3 o'clock in the morning?

Open up the door, she's standin' there
With the smile in her eyes but the gray in her hair
Betrays the fact you strayed far from home
With your drinkin', your smokin', your whorin' around
Sit down by the fire, put your feet on the grate
Spend the night reminiscin' 'til the hour grows late
Always remember at the end of the day
You can always go home - you just can't stay

Then it's off to the pub for to see your old mates
Ah, they all look older, but nothin' has changed
And you drink 'til you're nearly out of your head
"Hey, what are yez all doin' snakin' off to bed"
Then you're outside her flat but she's no longer there
And the tears scald your eyes as you think of her hair
In the photo they sent you of her wedding day
You can always go home - you just can't stay

Then you see her at Mass with the kids at her side
And it all comes back in the blink of an eye
The tears and the laughter, the love and the lies
And that dress she wore the night you said good-bye
Then her husband says "it's good to have you back"
And she smiles for a moment and squeezes your hand
But you know what she's thinkin', she doesn't have to say
You can always go home - you just can't stay

And you swear to yourself time and time again
It was all in the past, she don't mean anything
Now your life is full of laughter and bars
What did you leave behind, just the sun, the moon and the stars

Then it's up in the mornin' at the crack of dawn
With your stomach churnin', she says "c'mon now, Sean,
You'll be late for the plane," but that crack in her voice
Betrays the fact that you made your choice
A long time ago, now there's no turnin' back
'Cause last night you had your American Wake
And the bells are still ringin', can't you hear what they say
You can always go home - you just can't stay

(spoke/screamed in anguish):
Say good-bye in the wind and the pourin' rain
One last drink at Shannon Airport, then we're outa here,
History around here, catch you again next year
Landin' at Kennedy, all you feel is the pain,
But it's too late, 'cause last night you had your
American Wake.

Written by: Larry Kirwan
Performed by: Black 47
Album: Home of the Brave
Reprinted with permission of author
© Starry Plough Music (BMI)

---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Sat, 29 Mar 2003 02:52:50 EST
Subject: Re: Lyric posting permission

No problem, Dan, that's totally cool to print the lyrics 
of any Black 47 song for information purposes.  Thanks 
for thinking of us.  Let me know the link.

all the best,

larry kirwan
black 47

CST Approved

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