One of the most enduring of songs from Ireland’s folk tradition celebrates its 20th anniversary this year. Written by singer songwriter Johnny Duhan The Voyage is a song we will all recognise even if we don’t know we know it. Johnny kindly passed on this piece he has written about the song and I thought I would post it here (see below competition) so you could all enjoy it. He plays in The Dock on Friday 13th March. Tickets €20/18 are available from the box office on 071 9650828.
To celebrate the 2oth Anniversary of The Voyage The Dock is offering a lucky winner a pair of tickets for the gig. Simply send the answer with your name and contact details to email@example.com before 5pm Friday 6th March.
Q. Which of these artists did not cover one of Johnny Duhans songs?
A. Mary Black
B. Eleanor Shanley
C. Christy Moore
THE VOYAGE (20th Anniversary)
Life is an ocean, love is a boat,
In troubled waters it keeps us afloat;
When we started the voyage there was just me and you,
Now look around us, we have our own crew.
I sat down to write The Voyage twenty years ago partly as a gesture of gratitude to my sailor father for having held a steady hand on the tiller of our family’s fortunes during the turbulent times of my upbringing. When I mutinied at sixteen and set off as a professional singer, he didn’t speak to me for over a year. After that, whenever I visited home, he invariably greeted me with a curt “Are you making any money from that mug’s game yet?” I realise now that this biting remark disguised a deep concern for my wellbeing. So, I was delighted that my father lived long enough to witness the first success of The Voyage.
The idea to write on the family theme grew organically out my earlier excavations of family history in some of the songs on my Just Another Town album. Though my parents’ marriage had been a rocky and stormy affair at times, they always showed a deep respect for one another and managed to create an atmosphere of overarching security and affection in our home, most of the time. Measuring the inevitable early struggles of my own marriage against the maelstrom of my parents’ relationship, I wrote a song called Trying to get the Balance Right, and this led on to reflections on the whole institution of marriage and child rearing. Over a six or seven year period my thoughts on the subject crystallized into a series of songs that eventually became The Voyage album. The title song itself was one of the last songs of the collection to come to me. After exposing the raw nerves of the marriage struggle in many of the other lyrics – and maybe because I was open enough to give full expression to these familial difficulties – I felt empowered to write and sing of the more positive side of the marriage adventure with deep conviction and sincerity. When the chorus of the song came to me out out the blue, it took my breath away, mainly, I think, because it got to the nub of what family life is ultimately about – children. Because of the melodic twist
accompanying the sunny sentiment of the last line of the refrain – now look around us we have our own crew – I felt for a moment like I had been rewarded by some higher power for putting my faith and trust in the family unit. And in some ways the fact that so many people around the world have taken the song to heart is vindication of this belief.
2009 is the 20th Anniversary of the release of the first of many covers of The Voyage, by Christy Moore. In the Irish folk section of iTunes dowload charts, Christy’s version has almost had a permanent place in the top ten since the chart was established many years ago. Politicians, clergymen, writers, journalists and school teachers have eulogised the lyric. Choirs sing it. Comedians gag on it. Marriage counsellors swear by it. Most popular songs have a short life span. The Voyage grows more popular with age. Many standard ballads are restricted by national boundaries. The Voyage is sung all over the world in a variety of languages.
Niall Stokes of Hot Press has predicted that The Voyage will be around long after most popular rock songs are long forgotten. This echoes Christy Moore’s assessment that the song is destined for a high place in the cannon of folk “standards”.
If The Voyage is on its way to becoming a modern classic, as some believe, its intrinsic appeal lies in the affection most of us feel for our families. This and the fact that we are all on this mysterious life-journey together and our common aim seems to be more than just a safe haven. As the final verse suggests: our true destination lies in the warm latitudes of the shores of the heart where hopefully some hidden treasure lies buried, waiting to be discovered at the end of The Voyage