Brendan Behan


Brendan Behan : biography

9 February 1923 – 20 March 1964

Behan’s version of the third verse of "The Internationale", from Borstal Boy, was reproduced on the LP sleeve of Dexys Midnight Runners’s debut album, Searching for the Young Soul Rebels. In Dexys Midnight Runners’s first single, "Dance Stance" (a/k/a "Burn It Down"), a top 40 hit in the UK, Behan is named among other Irish writers in the song’s chorus.

Behan and his work have also featured in the music of other artists. The Mighty Mighty Bosstones song "All Things Considered" features the lyric "He swears that he was there the day that Brendan Behan died". The Thin Lizzy song "Black Rose" features the lyric "Ah sure, Brendan where have you Behan?" Bob Geldof’s song "Thinking Voyager 2 Type Things" features the lyric "So rise up Brendan Behan like a drunken Lazarus". A House mention Behan in their song "Endless Art". Damien Dempsey mentions Behan in "Jar Song". Behan is mentioned in the Pete St John song about Dublin life made famous by The Dubliners, "The Mero": "It’s Brendan Behan out walking, Sure he’s a ginger man."

Chicago-based band The Tossers wrote the song "Breandan O Beachain", found on their 2008 album On A Fine Spring Evening. The Mahones mention Behan in the song "Draggin’ the Days". The Mountain Goats song "Commandante" opens with the line: "I’m gonna drink more whiskey than Brendan Behan". Shortly after Behan’s death a young student, Fred Geis, wrote the song "Lament for Brendan Behan" and passed it on to the Clancy Brothers, who sang it on their album Recorded Live in Ireland! the same year. This song, which calls "bold Brendan" Ireland’s "sweet angry singer", was later covered by the Australian trio The Doug Anthony All Stars, better known as a comedy band, on their album Blue. "" is Seamus Robinson’s song-tribute to Behan. Behan’s prisoner song "The Auld Triangle", (which was written by his brother Dominic and featured in his play The Quare Fellow—this term being prison slang for a prisoner condemned to be hanged), has become something of a standard and has been recorded on numerous occasions, by folk musicians as well as popular bands such as The Pogues, the Dropkick Murphys and The Doug Anthony All Stars.

Behan’s two poems from his work The Hostage, "On the eighteenth day of November" and "The laughing boy" have been translated into Swedish and recorded by Ann Sofi Nilsson on the album När kommer dagen. The same poems have been translated in 1966 to Greek and recorded by Maria Farantouri on the album "Ένας όμηρος" ( the hostage) by Mikis Theodorakis.

Behan is mentioned as an alcoholic muse in the film Divorcing Jack: "…as my artistic interests grew I found that many of my heroes had had impassioned affairs with what my old dar would say was the devils vomit. Brendan Behan, Dylan Thomas, George Best, Pete Townshend… It had not adversely affected any of them, with the exception of the first two. ’em it killed." Also, one of his books, Confessions of an Irish Rebel, is burnt in the film version of Ray Bradbury’s novel Fahrenheit 451.

A pub named for Behan is located in the historically Irish Jamaica Plain section of Boston, Massachusetts. A bronze sculpture of the writer stands outside the Palace Bar on Dublin’s Fleet Street.Nihill, Cian. , The Irish Times, 6 October 2011. There are two stories associated with him (both of which were in the A Series of QI, in the episode entitled "Advertising".) One states that he was visiting Canada and he was asked by a reporter "What brings you to Canada, Mr Behan?" To which Behan is supposed to have replied "Well now, I was in a bar in Dublin and it had one of those coasters, and it said "Drink Canada Dry", so I thought I’d give it a shot." The second story states that he would write a slogan for Guinness if he were given a few crates of the product. The next day, the advertisers from Guinness returned to find the crates empty, surrounded by bits of crumpled paper, and he said "I’ve got it: ‘Guinness makes you drunk’."