Happy Birthday Josh Ritter! 40 Lyrics

So, the most joyful of 40th Birthdays to Josh Ritter, the best singer/songwriter, lyrical genius, happiest smiling performer, political commentator, novelist, sound tracker of my life! Anyone who knows me knows of Josh, because I am such a fan of all his work, and have been for many years. Age 16 I was swept away by the lyrics on a random CD my first ever boyfriend gave me, it was a copy of 2002’s Hello Starling, and from the first song, Bright Smile, I was captivated. The music has gone in many wonderful directions since then, but I have to say that one little pretty song has always held a special place in my heart.

There’s been 5 albums since, I have had 11 or so years of listening to this wonderful wordsmith. I have never found any lyrics or music that spoke to, comforted me in difficult times and buoyed up my successes like the works of, or should I say the Historical Conquests of Josh Ritter. I think I have saw him in concert here in Ireland 10 times, and met him on a handful of happy occasions. My favourite time was the porch of the Empire Music Hall in 2009, during my first month or so of University. We bonded over Muriel Spark if I remember rightly.

My bestie Aisling and me bumped heads trying to hug Josh after one of my first times seeing him in Letterkenny, probably in 2007. My Mammy still feels a little ill when she listens to Kathleen because she was pregnant with Ellen when she listened to the album a lot and it calls up the morning sickness. Josh was there when relationships came and went and the words surrounded me on my best and worst days. Every workplace I was in or class I took I always converted a few to the Book of Ritter! To the point of being teased.

I have made so many memories, and met some good friends. This music has really enriched my days and I’m not doing it justice here.

As part of the celebrations, to let the birthday boy know how much all his songs are loved and appreciated, I bullied  requested that my friends and family help me out on a little lyrical project. Aisling gave me the idea of my 40 favourite lyrics, and I loved that idea, so these are at least 40 significant lyrics (I probably could go on forever.) And then to make it interesting, I assigned different people in my life some lyrics to hand write, and decorate as they saw fit. There are some works of art here. I think I might finally get an idea for a tattoo…

These lyrics all mean something to me, so take a wee minute to be inspired. 

In no particular order, I give you 40 lyrics from the man of the moment, Idaho legend Josh Ritter! Happy Birthday, Josh. Thank you for writing such rich and magical poetry to music. These songs have genuinely made a big difference in my life.

I think I will let the lyrics mostly speak for themselves. It’s only little snippets, but I strongly advise you chase the song up and give it a listen. Enjoy!



Beginning how it began, Bright Smile.

@thebadactress is now my username for most things… including Twitter. Where Josh follows me! Huzzah.
























I find more and more depth to this song every time. Considering ending the world just to stay in an underground bunker with your love…











A magical story of a ‘cursed’ Egyptian Mummy falling in love with an archaeologist.






















Beginning of relationship questions and wishes!























Like, what a compliment… and Ellen did a great job of the mini Aurora Borealis.




A beautiful story song that gets me right in the feels every time. Also cleverly inspired by Edgar Allan Poe’s Annabel Lee. The first time I heard it I assumed it was an old cover of a classic song.










A definite ‘up there’ for my favourite song.








This song was a bit of a commentary on the Bush administration 10 years ago… but so apt today.











If you’re familiar with the next line, Jacob (7) drew a blackbird, a starling and winter being over by spring flowers. Awww.




Joy to you, Josh, wherever you are on your 40th Birthday. You have done the music world, and the world in general so much good by being here. Thank you for keeping me company through music, and offering so much inspiration through your words. Keep doing what you’re doing, and please come back to Ireland when you can.

Happy Birthday!

Fiona x

Huge THANK YOU to my artistic contributors who were put under some pressure! I am so impressed and I owe you :

A. Breslin

Dr. A. Duffy

L. Gilmour

C. Lafferty

R. Harley

Dr. M. Montague

E. Mc Callion

J. Mc Callion

P. Mc Callion

S. Rooney

M. Turner

C. Tracey

And an extra special thank you to A. Nelson who really made me want to get my friends involved cause of her calligraphy skills. Beautiful! 

My first Vinyl (aged 23) & The Beast

Last Friday, M collected me from work. After doing the late shift, as per usual, and with no prospect of a weekend to look forward to, I wasn’t in the best of moods. That is, until he reaches into the back seat as we pull up to my house, and hands me a present. Josh Ritter’s ‘The Beast in it’s Tracks’ (Or tBiiT as I have been affectionately calling it.) in a clear bag, the Limited edition vinyl, vinyl single. CD and lyric book. ‘How?’ It wasn’t supposed to be out until March 5th. But I had forgotten, Ireland always releases music early, the Friday before. And Cool Disks, a lovely wee independent music shop on Foyle Street, Derry always sticks to the ‘Irish’ rule of thumb although we are in the no man’s land of Derry/Londonderry. Excitement abounds. It’s my first vinyl, believe it or not, and I am pleased as punch with it. I haven’t actually got a record player but I would happily buy one.

I’m still in the first few listens (to the CD) and still making up my mind. (It’s Josh Ritter, I know I’m going to love it but I’m finding my reasons why right now!) It’s come out of pure heartbreak. This Hotpress article is really good about it. It’s a lot simpler album than ‘So Runs the World Away’ (2010) I feel like it’s something he just had to do…

Anyways, here are some of my excited photos:



















Josh Ritter at Dublin Writer’s Festival Or Meeting your Heroes.

A few days after my Belfast flat peeps had a big old party to celebrate the end our degrees, M and I went to Dublin to a very exciting event – Josh Ritter in conversation with Sinead Gleeson discussing his debut novel ‘Bright’s Passage’ which is newly released in UK/Ireland. (I’ve had it for ages since it was released in USA in case you are confused.) It was part of the Dublin Writer’s Festival which runs until the 10th of June. I am now on the mailing list and will be keeping an eye out for future festivals !

It was held in Liberty Hall (which we had some trouble locating on a map but all was well.) Due to the bus company changing the timetable THAT DAY we had to wait in Derry for 2 hours for a bus (I had gotten up at 5.40 with excitement.) So we barely had time to get to our Guesthouse (No more posh hotels for us) before we had to skip to the venue. Despite my worries, M was right about where we were going, and we chatted to an older couple outside who were from Dublin and said they followed Josh all around and ‘Isn’t he one in a million’ and they had nothing but wonderful things to say about him. I wish we had have asked their names.

The venue was lovely, quite small, but packed to the gills. It was also at 3p.m – I have never seen Josh in the day time before! Sinead Gleeson asked him a series of questions, mainly about the difference between writing songs and writing prose. He had many funny stories and such good advice. I tried to write down a few things afterwards, when we got back to the room:

“Poems are God’s sneezes.” – he quoted a lady, I think her first name was Alison, I can’t find it online.

He discussed how in writing a song, a writer provides a corridor, a long corridor with many doors branching off from it. The listener decides where she wants to go. When listening to a Leonard Cohen song, he said, you can suddenly be transported back to something that happened years ago, or start thinking about buying pretzels. It could be anywhere, anything.

You owe it to your good idea to make it as good as it can be. Perfect it.

Find your bucket! This struck a chord with me – he said he always knew he wanted to write, it was inside him but he needed a bucket to pour his words into, he needed to find the right medium. Among many of my writing problems I think this is one of them. I need to find the right bucket.

“Don’t punch your own time card.” He took up running a few years ago to try to get his brain ‘pumped’ and to give himself a break from all the thinking and writing. It’s important to do other things, things that are good for you and that you love, not just bow to the slog of work and bed. I’m not saying it very eloquently but it IS an important message. I might take up running…

I found myself nodding along to all the wonderful advice that he had.

He sang us a few songs afterwards, I have a feeling he would have sang more but one of his strings broke. M decided the strings must have been changed too soon before the event. There were two new songs, one very sad one about joy which I am looking forward to hearing again. He also sung an ‘angel’ song, Sir Galahad to suit the angel theme in ‘Bright’s Passage.’

There was a very long queue to have books signed after the event. We queued in a circular fashion in the lobby. M and I waited for an hour and I got more and more nervous as we neared the front. My palms started sweating and then M’s did too, he said I was making him nervous, and he didn’t know what I was going to do! A girl in front of me said she liked my shoes, and then just as she was going to meet him with her friend she sat down, and changed her mind. I stepped in. She got up and her friend mouthed ‘thank you.’ Yay. I have met Josh before, as you know, and also he still follows me on twitter, so I had dared hope that he might recognise me.

It was beautiful watching Josh hug every single person, give them his time, pose for pictures, sign their books. EVERYONE came away smiling, and it was a pleasure to watch them all go down the stairs, checking their signatures and photos and grinning happily. He kissed a few Mums on the cheek and hugged older men there themselves and it was all beautiful.

When it was our turn (I had nearly fled down the stairs a few times) he hugged us both and M was all awkward about it (bless). Then he asked us where we were from and we said Derry and I just accepted that of course he wasn’t going to recognise me, but then when he took my copy of ‘Bright’s Passage’ to sign and asked me my name, he said ‘Fiona! How ARE you?’ and hugged me again and said he was looking out for me. ‘You follow me on twitter!’ I squeaked. ‘Yeah!’ he said writing enthusiastically in my book. When I told him I’d just finished my exams last week he said ‘ I read that!’

Oh My God, you guys.

We told him how me met when he asked. (Youth group… not very interesting…) I told him I was raging he was going to Belfast when I’d still be in Dublin! He asked what we were going to do in Dublin and I kind of waffled and then asked him did he know Leo Burdock’s Fish & Chip shop. (I had listened to M talk about it the whole way round the circle haha) So we got a photo and it was all cosy. M took 3 cause I closed my eyes the 1st time. Then I further squeaked ‘Thank you Josh, you’re my favourite!’ and he said ‘Thanks for everything, guys, say hello to Leo for me!”

I was shaking trying to walk down the stairs, and was in the best mood ever the entire Dublin trip. I’m smiling thinking about it. Josh if by any chance you are reading this: Thank You from the bottom of my heart.

People say they wouldn’t want to meet their heroes – you do if it’s Josh Ritter.

Josh sings a few songs after his interview at Liberty Hall, Dublin Writer’s Festival.



Josh Ritter and me. Happy happy.


Aww! M actually got introduced this time. Hee hee.