Fair warning, her links to us are tenuous!
Irish people tell a good yarn, and Lana Del Rey has gone on record saying she loves that about Ireland.
In fact, she has even stated that she has been considerably moved by Irish folk music. In 2019, while celebrating her birthday on a tour of the country, she told the local crowd that she sometimes listened to Irish music in the morning. It could be surmised that this habit helped create the air of melancholy she brings to the stage.
And given that she drops literary references like there’s no tomorrow, it’s little wonder that she feels an affinity for the land of saints and scholars. Now that she is releasing another collection of songs, let’s celebrate a singer who is never shy when it comes to celebrating us.
Blue Banisters is Lana’s ninth album, and her second in the space of two months. It seems that after eleven years of recording and releasing songs, the American artist is ready to reflect on her life and career.
Lana is famous for her love of Americana, but her music is also reflective and personal, something which carried over into a poetry book she published in 2020, Violet Bent Backwards Over the Grass. This book, inspired by the work of Walt Whitman and Allen Ginsberg, features 30 poems and a collection of photographs. She was prepared to sell the book for a dollar, saying her thoughts were ”priceless’, but publisher Simon & Schuster stepped in and acquired the rights.
Fans of Lana del Rey will find her signature voice and style in her latest album, but there is also experimentation, new vocal registers and, in one song, the unfamiliar sound of a harmonica.
Critics are enthused by this blend of the familiar and the new, with many delighting in her return to form after some uneven earlier albums, yet reviewers are also enthralled by the mystery contained in each song. With each release, Lana adds more to the vibrant world she has created, and the character she plays in each album is also more and more mysterious.
She studied metaphysics at university and started releasing albums under another stage name. Thus before she was Lana, she was May Jailer. After graduating, she settled on the moniker Lana Del Rey because she was spending a lot of time in Miami, and her name reflects the Spanish influence and the glamour of this American city.
In 2011, Lana released Born to Die, a seminal album focused on big themes and the America of the 1950s and 1960s. It became the first debut album by a woman to spend 400 weeks on the US Billboard 200, which is no surprise considering that the tracks included Summertime Sadness, Blue Jeans, National Anthem and other classics.
Her appearance on SNL in 2012 generated a lot of criticism, with some saying her performance was the worst in SNL history. Co-hosts Andy Samberg and Daniel Radcliffe came to her defence.
Despite sometimes being in the firing line, Lana has a diverse range of credits. She worked on the soundtrack for The Great Gatsby and has collaborated with Liverpool F.C. The American singer has also been credited with influencing artists that have come after her, such as Billy Eilish.
Lana Del Rey & Ireland: Coming Full Circle
Her aforementioned influences do also have some links to Ireland.
Ginsberg read Howl to a packed crowd in Dublin’s Liberty Hall, and all for the promise of a new tweed suit as he wanted to appear as an Irish gentleman. That being said, Liberty Hall’s connection to the working classes also appealed to him. Some say he was buried in that suit, and he was definitely photographed in it three years after his Dublin jaunt.
Two years later, he was back, attending a literary festival in Galway.
Whitman – the author of Leaves of Grass – has an Irish connection in the sense that he was, allegedly, the model for Bram Stoker’s Dracula. A much stronger connection can be found in Peter Doyle, a Limerick man who was the poet’s longtime friend and presumed lover.
Doyle had reached America on a ship that was almost wrecked, fought in the American Civil War on the opposing side of Whitman’s brother, and was in Ford’s Theatre the night Lincoln was shot. It is even said that Whitman’s O Captain! My Captain! was inspired by Doyle’s experiences at sea.
Despite all of this Whitman was not always a fan of the Irish. Sources indicate that he sometimes thought of us as drunk and lazy.
It’s been a hell of a ride, with a surfeit of tenuous primary and secondary links to Ireland, via the works of two American poets and the modern pop legend that is Lana Del Rey.
Before you go, you can go on our virtual tour of a historic neighbourhood in Madrid. Listen to our podcast for more cultural pieces, and head to our online shop for some literary-inspired fashion. For more super blog posts, try this one about the deep connection between Irish and Spanish music!
Thanks for reading Lana Del Rey & Ireland!