“Blue-Eyed Soul” in the Emerald Isle

The Commitments by Roddy Doyle shows how Irish people have connected to Black culture, but strayed away from it when it was no longer beneficial. We discussed this idea when we first read Moon and the Mars in January. We see that Jimmy wants to bring soul to Ireland because he wants to “[bring] the music, the Soul, back to the people.–The proletariat” (Doyle 122). While soul music was not limited to one class, a majority of listeners in the US were in the Black working class. In a time where opportunities were non-existent and racism was rampant, soul music was a way for Black people to escape their realities and enter a different world. This concept is reflected in Ireland when Jimmy comments “Soul is a double-edged sword…one edge is escapism. Gettin’ away from it all. Lettin’ yourself go” (35). Although Black and Irish people were facing entirely different circumstances, both communities had the same reason to listen to soul music. This further exemplifies the most important concept of this class: that both groups have had a transatlantic conversation for decades. We saw this last week with how Uptight, a fictional movie about the start of the Black Panthers, is a rendition of The Informer, a movie about an Irish revolutionary group. In The Commitments, we see the opposite exchange happening with an Irish band performing soul music. 

However, The Commitments shows the same split between Black and Irish culture that was seen in Moon and the Mars. At the end of the novel, the Commitments dissolve and Jimmy agrees with Joey that “soul isn’t right for Ireland” (157). Jimmy and a few other members form “the Byrds”, which is a country-punk band. This is a similar move towards White-American culture that was seen in Moon and the Mars. During the Civil War, Irish-Americans turned on their Black neighbors in Five Points to gain more social power. These two novels exemplify how the two communities connect across various aspects of life, but inevitably part when times get rough. It shows the complexities of the transatlantic conversations we have discussed, and its similarities across time. 

One Reply to ““Blue-Eyed Soul” in the Emerald Isle”

  1. I really like your analysis and connections to Moon and the Mars! I talked about something similar, with how the band’s transition to country music at the end really just reflects how Jimmy’s “appreciation” of soul might have been appropriation the whole time.

    I’m also really interested in the language used in the quote saying “[bring] the music, the Soul, back to the people.–The proletariat” (Doyle 122). By saying “back to the people,” this seems to me like an indication that Jimmy believes that the music belonged to the Irish to begin with, which is clearly incorrect. Although it is true that there are similarities between the Black and the Irish, I wonder if Jimmy takes this too far?

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