‘Frank Sinatra’s That’s Life speaks to me. I’ve worked on all sorts of things to survive’

Singer and musician Jerry Fish shares his Spotify playlist of classic songs and new finds

Jerry Fish: ‘It’s no accident that Frank Sinatra’s This Life is the final track of the playlist.’ Photograph: William Gottlieb/Redferns/Getty

Jerry Fish: ‘It’s no accident that Frank Sinatra’s This Life is the final track of the playlist.’ Photograph: William Gottlieb/Redferns/Getty

 

Song and dance are an original form of prayer: it’s an ancient practice. Two friends of mine are lawyers in India, and one got the Indian government to pay royalties to Indian musicians, and the other had the job of convincing Indian musicians to accept the money, because they didn’t want it and felt it was devotional music.

So I try to remember not to get swallowed up in the industry and make sure I don’t treat music like a commodity. I don’t like anyone telling people they can’t sing. Everybody can sing. Even the idea of tuning seems like Christian propaganda, because ancient cultures sing in a tone that everybody can sing.

Jerry Fish: ‘I had to put It’s Impossible by Daniel Johnston on the list. I’ve been covering his songs for 10 years, but I keep finding new songs and being bowled over by them.’
Jerry Fish

Lyrics captivate me. A lot of people say that they don’t even hear lyrics, but they make a song for me – even if it’s just a repeated line, as long as it takes you somewhere, which is the job of a song. They were a way to tell stories before we had the news cycle we have now.

One song I’d never leave off a playlist is Spanish Stroll, by Mink DeVille. Willy DeVille had a swagger like nobody else. I remember watching him on Top of the Pops as a kid in the 1970s, and I got my ears pierced that same evening. I love him, and I love the Latino feel to this song – it was extremely influential for me.

Jerry Fish soundtrack of my life playlist

A lot of the other acts that were associated with CBGBs in the 1970s were formative for me too: Talking Heads, Blondie, the Ramones, Lou Reed. When Willy DeVille was on his deathbed I got a call from his cousin, who asked if I wanted to write a letter to him, because she knew I was a big fan. But I couldn’t bring myself to do it. I didn’t quite know what to say. I said goodbye in my own way instead.

Under Pressure is a bit of a pandemic anthem, and I chose the Karen O [of The Yeah Yeah Yeahs] and Willie Nelson’s version because the lyrics are so good, but you don’t catch as much in Queen’s original. You’d never put Willie and Karen together, but it brings Karen O up to the iconic level she should be at: that of an American giant.

My recent discoveries include Little Simz. I love the imagery, and I love the song Woman; songs to smash the patriarchy are necessary for us to move on as a race. Kojaque has been lumped in with the Irish-rap thing, but he’s so much more. Kae Tempest is someone that I adore since I saw them at Glastonbury. Their words really have power. And Chaise Lounge by Wet Leg is amazing – what a bass line. Plus the thought of hanging around on a chaise longue is appealing. Fontaines DC are great too. I wish I could do a full playlist of new Irish music, because we’ve got some brilliant acts at the moment.

Fat White Family are probably my favourite band at the moment. I’ve seen them a couple of times, and they’ve got that energy that I really love. They’re superb musicians too. And they’re from Brixton – I grew up in Brixton as well.

I had to put It’s Impossible by Daniel Johnston on the list. I’ve been covering his songs for 10 years, but I keep finding new songs and being bowled over by them. I covered True Love Will Find You in the End just after Daniel Johnston died, in 2019, and his manager contacted me to tell me he loved the track. He asked if I’d put Hi, How Are You on in Dublin for them; it’s a project to get rid of the stigma of mental health that takes place on Daniel’s birthday. We put that show on in January 2020, and it was probably one of the last gigs I did before the pandemic began.

It’s no accident that Frank Sinatra’s That’s Life is the final track of the playlist. It speaks to me because I’ve worked on all sorts of things in this life to survive. And it’s Frank, it’s the arrangements, and I love the way it ends on a negative note: “I’m gonna roll myself up in a big ball and die.”

Jerry Fish plays Live at the Stadium, Tallaght (September 2nd), Féile Forever, Tipperary (September 3rd), Dock Arts Centre, Carrick-on-Shannon (September 4th), Visual, Carlow (September 5th), Grand Social, Dublin (September 9th) and O’Mahonys, Watergrasshill (September 10th)

The Irish Times Logo
Commenting on The Irish Times has changed. To comment you must now be an Irish Times subscriber.
SUBSCRIBE
GO BACK
Error Image
The account details entered are not currently associated with an Irish Times subscription. Please subscribe to sign in to comment.
Comment Sign In

Forgot password?
The Irish Times Logo
Thank you
You should receive instructions for resetting your password. When you have reset your password, you can Sign In.
The Irish Times Logo
Please choose a screen name. This name will appear beside any comments you post. Your screen name should follow the standards set out in our community standards.
Screen Name Selection

Hello

Please choose a screen name. This name will appear beside any comments you post. Your screen name should follow the standards set out in our community standards.

The Irish Times Logo
Commenting on The Irish Times has changed. To comment you must now be an Irish Times subscriber.
SUBSCRIBE
Forgot Password
Please enter your email address so we can send you a link to reset your password.

Sign In

Your Comments
We reserve the right to remove any content at any time from this Community, including without limitation if it violates the Community Standards. We ask that you report content that you in good faith believe violates the above rules by clicking the Flag link next to the offending comment or by filling out this form. New comments are only accepted for 3 days from the date of publication.