I'm Shipping Up To Boston

Album: The Warrior's Code (2005)

Songfacts®:

  • This is Dropkick Murphys' take on a folk song written by Woody Guthrie. Guthrie was a very prolific writer, and many of his songs were never recorded. The Woody Guthrie archives have lyrics to thousands of his songs that are sometimes dusted off and recorded by modern artists, which is how Dropkick Murphys found them. To learn more about Guthrie, check out our interview with Anna Canoni, who is Guthrie's granddaughter.
  • The song is about a sailor who loses his leg in a bizarre rigging accident, and now he's shipping off to Boston to find his wooden leg. In a Songfacts interview with Matt Kelly of the Dropkick Murphys, he explained how they attained the unpublished Woody Guthrie lyrics for this song and why they chose it. Said Kelly: "We were bestowed the honor by his daughter of being able to go through his lyrical archives and pick out a song or two of unpublished lyrics that we thought would be kind of cool. I mean, we had no business even being able to look at those lyrics - there have been some big names that have been after those lyrics for decades. I know Springsteen's been after 'em, and then Elvis Costello.

    It's just so amazing that we were approached to look at them, never mind have the approval of the estate to use them. And the reason why we used that was because it said 'Boston' in it. (laughs) There's not a hell of a lot to the lyrics of that song, it's four lines of the verse, and then 'shipping up to Boston.' So it was pretty bare bones. And we'd had an instrumental that we started working on in Madrid, Spain in I think 2002. We recorded an older version of it, we just kind of did a demo of it, and it ended up on a Warped Tour sampler or something like that. And it sounds like a high school band, it's not very good. So we've been playing it live here and there, and so, like, what the heck, let's re-record this. The song grew a bit after recording it. And not many people knew it or had the recorded version, so I'm thinking what the heck, let's give it the real treatment and spend some time on it."
  • This was a breakthrough song for the Dropkick Murphys. Matt Kelly told us: "That song was instrumental in making us very popular in our own backyards. We've been touring since '96, and we've done Warped Tour shows around the country, playing festivals over in Europe and some big shows all around the world. But in Boston, they're like 'Dropkick what?' Like 'What the hell's that?' And I think being involved in The Departed definitely helped put us on the map and, for better or for worse, legitimized our band in Boston."
  • This appeared on the soundtrack to the Academy Award-winning film, The Departed, and the music video features clips of the movie. So how did the song end up in the movie? Kelly says, "There's a couple of different legends as to how Martin Scorsese got his hands on the song. Some stories say Robbie Robertson from The Band let him know about us, or then there was Leonardo DiCaprio, some say that he told them, 'Hey, you should use this song.' The song was already released on the Warrior's Code album. So unfortunately for us, it wasn't specifically written for the movie."
  • Dropkick Murphys are from Boston and their music is often associated with Boston sports teams. This song is a favorite at Fenway Park, where it is often played during Boston Red Sox games (Jonathan Papelbon used it as his entrance music when he was their closer). The Boston Bruins of the NHL use it to signal a power play, and the song was in a 2009 Visa commercial featuring the New England Patriots. The Boston Celtics employed it during their 2008 playoff run, and both the studio version and a marching band version are often heard at Boston College football games. A rousing anthem that works like musical adrenaline, the song has spread to stadiums across the nation when the home team is looking to pump up the crowd. >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Bert - Pueblo, NM
  • On their 2010 Live on Lansdowne DVD, the Dropkick Murphys included a performance of this song with The Mighty Mighty Bosstones. Matt Kelly explains: "Those guys really gave us our first foothold as far as touring around the US and Europe. We didn't even have a full-length album out and they insisted on taking us on the road at the height of their popularity. Took us on a two-month US tour and a one-month European tour. They weren't as big as they were becoming in Europe yet, but it was still the biggest tour that we'd ever been on. We'd been in a band playing to like a bar full of people. So playing these big venues, big clubs, and then sometimes colleges and universities and stuff, was ridiculous for us. And it was great having them up on stage with us playing the trombone and saxes. They're big personalities, they're maniacs. So it was cool, it was kind of like things that come full circle or something, so that particular live version of 'I'm Shipping Up To Boston' really warms the cockles."
  • The song has sold over a million digital copies despite never having charted on the Hot 100.
  • An acoustic version serves as the theme song for the TNT television series Rizzoli & Isles.
  • This song could be heard during the 2015 Super Bowl telecast when the New England Patriots took on the Seattle Seahawks - it played in the pregame to represent the Patriots, who won on a late interception. It was a big game for Woody Guthrie, whose "This Land Is Your Land" was featured in a 90-second Jeep commercial.
  • In August 2019, WVCB Channel 5 Boston recorded the Murphys performing this song in the front yard of Quinn Waters, a three-year-old boy quarantined in his Boston home while recovering from surgery for a brain tumor.
  • On St. Patrick's Day 2020, the Murphys had to cancel their usual slate of St. Patrick's Day concerts because of the coronavirus outbreak, so they played a free online concert called "Streaming Up From Boston" that was streamed on Facebook, Instagram and YouTube. For the many revelers confined to their homes (most bars and restaurants were closed), the concert was a great way to celebrate the holiday virtually and take a break from the outpouring of bad news surrounding the virus. Hundreds of thousands tuned in to watch.

Comments: 5

  • Alex Kulak from Mesa, AzAppeared on the Boston Lager commercials too.
  • Joel from New Lexington, OhI heard this in an ad for Brave
  • Ken from Philadelphia, PaMovies, good or bad one, are always improved by a great soundtrack. Even so, it is so rare that a perfect song and a perfect scene in a good movie has such a symbiosis like "The Departed" and "Shipping Up To Boston". Scorcese couldn't have chosen a better song for that scene if he lived to a be million years old, and I am sure he knows it.
  • Willie from Scottsdale, AzIt was also played at the NHL Winter Classic in 2009 (?) when the Bruins played the Flyers @ Fenway Park.
  • Will Sullivan from Boston, MaThis is yet another cool song. I like how the different music styles are blended together. This was also used in the film The Departed. One of Martin Scorcese's better films. (Not to take anything away from the likes of Mean Streets or Taxi Driver mind you). To be honest I am biased because of my Southie upbringing. I just wish they could have shot the entire thing in Boston but I quess thats the breaks sometimes. At any rate a good song and all.
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