The Clancy Brothers
Except for their trademark Aran sweaters, you might have mistaken the Clancy Brothers for a bunch of dock-working thugs -- until they raised their voices, that is. This clan of singing Irish emigres helped catalyze the Greenwich Village folk scene and eventually became one of the most popular singing groups in the world. Enlisting the services of teetotaler friend Tommy Makem, the Clancys inaugurated the Ballad Revival of the 1950s, a trend that rescued from obscurity the old songs of Ireland at a time when England was doing everything in its power to quash Irish nationalism. The movement made it respectable again for folks to identify with working-class songs and their Irish heritage. Intentionally or not, the Clancy Brothers reawakened people's awareness of class issues and social injustice and helped precipitate the political folk movement of the '60s. Of course, the group was never uni-dimensionally political; they're most fondly remembered for their rowdy drinking songs, after all. Not content to merely sing their odes to John Barleycorn (songs like "Nancy Whiskey" and "The Parting Glass"), they assailed them with booming voices that brim over with excitement. Listening to the Clancy Brothers feels like having a run-in with that big, back-slapping uncle who's always happy to see ya'.