The Dropkick Murphys: A 'Rose Tattoo' Tells A Life Story

NPR | Jan. 1, 2013 1:45 p.m.

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NPR Staff

If there’s a soundtrack for last call in a Boston dive bar, the Dropkick Murphys are on it. They have been a local favorite for more than a decade, but even outlanders are familiar with the band’s mixture of punk and Irish music which has spawned two major hits: reworking of the old Boston Red Sox anthem “Tessie” and “I’m Shipping to Boston,” which was featured in Martin Scorcese’s The Departed.

For founder, bassist, and singer Ken Casey, these songs aim “to tell you a life story in four minutes.” The Dropkick Murphys are set to release a new album, Signed and Sealed in Blood, next week, and “Rose Tattoo” was inspired by Casey’s own tattoos.

“Throughout life — trials, tribulations, dates, times, places, things that are important to you, family, people who have passed away — tattoos on my body document my life and what I’ve been through, things that have been important to me,” Casey tells NPR’s Audie Cornish. “You know, they’re all a part of the story.”

The tattoo itself appears on Casey’s arm and is a memorial to his grandfather who raised Casey after his father had died.

“He taught me most things that make me who I am today,” says Casey. “He was a big union guy in Boston. It’s in a visible place for me and I look down and I see it a lot. He was such an inspiring man that it inspires me. Oftentimes, I just catch it out of the corner of my eye and it literally changes my mood when I think of him and what a strong individual he was.”

Dropkick Murphys fans just as proud of their tattoos — many of them sporting ink that pays tribute to their favorite band. Within five days of releasing the artwork to Signed and Sealed in Blood, Casey says that over 100 tattoo submissions came into the band’s web siteand now feature prominently in the music video for “Rose Tattoo.”

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