With New Album, Dropkick Murphys Take On The Opioid Crisis

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Ken Casey of the Dropkick Murphys. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)
Ken Casey of the Dropkick Murphys. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)

The Celtic-punk band Dropkick Murphys (@DropkickMurphys) are known for their joyous sound and raucous stage shows. But the group's new release, "11 Short Stories of Pain and Glory," goes deep.

The album takes on the nationwide crisis of opioid addiction through songs like "Paying My Way," and a cover of the Rodgers and Hammerstein classic "You’ll Never Walk Alone."

Dropkick Murphys vocalist, bassist and songwriter Ken Casey (@kendkm) joins Here & Now's Robin Young to talk about the album.

Here's the band performing "Paying My Way":

And here's the full version of Casey performing "The Fields of Athenry":

Interview Highlights

On the song "You'll Never Walk Alone"

"I actually, I'm not so much the musical kind of guy. But the Gerry and the Pacemakers version was like, the version that I always heard. And just even that version, there's so much sadness, there's so much hope, it just kind of like brings you down then brings you up. The song is just amazing.

"The band was very, kind of, embroiled in the opiate crisis, and that's just taking a ridiculous amount of people away. And the Gerry and the Pacemakers version of 'You'll Never Walk Alone' came on in my car as I was leaving one of about, I don't know, 40 wakes I've been to in the last year and a half. Some of them family, some of them close friends, some of them fans of the band, some of them kids that we work with with the Claddagh Fund."

On the Claddagh Fund and helping young addicts

"We started in 2009, we raise money for children's charities, veterans, and then substance abuse. There's a sober high school, and we give scholarships to kids going on to college, graduating from the sober high school, and just try to kind of mentor them and sometimes have them come to the shows, and just try to show them that there's more to life than drugs.

"When I'm at one wake after another, when I'm burying either my friends' kids, or my friends, this should be front-page news every day."

Ken Casey, on the opioid crisis

"In many instances, they'll say like the 'harm-reduction model,' like 'let's just try to make this kid not end up in jail, let's put him on Suboxone or some other kind of thing,' and kind of give up on kids. And they end up being institutionalized, and I just think we can do better than that."

On being seen as a drinking song band

"I think that might be the nature of Irish music, sometimes no matter what the message, people sing it with that kind of 'arrgh.' Myself, I've been in long-term recovery for over 25 years. ['Rebels with a Cause'] is written about so many people in my life that were throwing their life away to alcohol, but I don't preach it, you know what I mean?

"I feel like sometimes, when you kind of take things past the lyrics, it kind of turns people off. This, however, with the opioid crisis, it's like, when I'm at one wake after another, when I'm burying either my friends' kids, or my friends, this should be front-page news every day."

This article was originally published on January 10, 2017.

This segment aired on January 10, 2017.



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