The Commitments

by Roddy Doyle

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Last Updated on September 5, 2023, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 521

Yeah, politics.——Not songs abou' Fianna fuckin' Fail or annythin' like tha'. Real politics. (They weren't with him.)—Where are yis from? (He answered the question himself.)—Dublin. (He asked another one.) – Wha' part o' Dublin? Barrytown. Wha' class are yis? Workin' class. Are yis proud of it? Yeah, yis are. (Then a practical question.)—Who buys the most records? The workin' class. Are yis with me? (Not really.)—Your music should be abou' where you're from an' the sort o' people yeh come from.———Say it once, say it loud, I'm black an' I'm proud.

Derek and Outspan go to the pub to ask Jimmy Rabbite, who knows a lot about music, how to start a band. Jimmy asks them the purpose of their band, and they don't know what it is. In this excerpt, Jimmy tries to convince them that music has a political purpose. It's not just about Fianna Fail, an Irish political party, but about the larger world situation.

Jimmy connects their situation as working-class Irish people to that of African Americans because both groups are oppressed and live in poverty. He wants music to be more than just love songs; instead, he wants it to be a means of protest. Doyle's book is largely written with these types of working-class speech patterns and it's filled with obscenities. His purpose is to convey the way people really speak—in dialect—and to help readers feel like they are present with the characters.

They were stunned by what came next.—The Irish are the niggers of Europe, lads.

They nearly gasped: it was so true.

Jimmy tries to convince Derek and Outspan, the founding members of the band, that they are similar to African Americans because of the oppression they face as working class Irishmen. He tries to get the members of the band to connect with figures like Ray Charles, James Brown, and Aretha Franklin, hoping that the musicians and singers will then put life and soul into the way they sing. Their music is a protest against the way they live in poverty, but it's also an expression of pride in their backgrounds.

Imelda, Natalie and Bernie could sing though. They'd been in the folk mass choir when they were in school but that, they knew now, hadn't really been singing. Jimmy said that real music was sex. They called him a dirty bastard but they were starting to agree with him. And there wasn't much sex in Morning Has Broken or The Lord is my Shepherd.

The vocalists in the band have been trained in singing religious music. Jimmy, who becomes the manager of the band, tells them that the music they are singing has more to do with sex than with religion. They realize that the music they sang as part of the mass was a totally different kind of expression. They are now embarking on a new path in life that has little to do with the way they were raised. In fact, they are breaking with their pasts and gaining a different perspective by singing soul music in the tradition of Motown.

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