Moonshine is used in popular culture to convey the rural or regional background of a character, as well as to depict his or her nostalgia for bygone days, regrets at having lived a less-than-respectable life, or bravado as a criminal. In song lyrics the narrator can show either, but moonshine is usually associated with home. Dolly Parton sang about Daddy’s Moonshine Still as the birthplace of many family tragedies. Because it was the great depression, moonshine manufacturing and selling must have been, for many farmers and other illegal distillers, a way to stay alive rather than a lucrative business. The father in the lyrics has apparently failed to make a good business out of his distillery, and for the narrator of the lyrics the moonshine is nostalgic of lost days, as well as an indirect cause of her and her family’s misfortunes; the direct cause being poverty, presumably.
John Denver beseeches the Country Roads to take him home that is reminiscent of, among other things, the “misty taste of moonshine”. The adjective misty is a reminder of the romanticism of the name for the various distilled beverages. For Jimmy Buffet moonshine, “like honey dew vine water,” is more like a heavenly gift that allows him to befriend a bear. The whole song is quite dreamy, with a drunk perspective.
Bob Dylan isThe Moonshiner “for seventeen long years” who thinks that “the whole world’s a bottle,” suggesting that emptiness of the bottle is like a vacuous life. It suggests a vagrant and meaningless life but also free from strains that hippies might find very attractive. Dylan recorded the song in 1963 on his album The Bootlegging Series, which came in three volumes of compilations of rare and unreleased songs. It is a folk song with unclear origins, and was sung by many other artists such as Tim Hardin, Charlie Parr, the Punch Brothers, Cat Power, Bob Forrest, Jeffrey Foucault and Elliott Smith. It was performed in the 1930s by Delia Murphy but it is unknown whether it is an Irish song or an American one.
Two of James Taylor’s albums were named after moonshine, suggestive of creation of songs in a similar light to moonshine making. For Van Morrison, Moonshine Whiskey is a synonym for southern love, or a lover he found “deep in the heart of Texas.” His further mentioning of “promenade streamline” in the bubbles of the water is quite typical of Morrison’s dance-like lyrics and goes well with the idea of a romanticized alcohol intake. A more recent contribution to moonshine was made by Bruno Mars.
Moonshine is used in various song lyrics as a device to convey emotions mostly nostalgic and/or romantic, as well as nihilistic or content attitudes. No longer universally prohibited, moonshine and its distilling processes can be enjoyed according to individual tastes using a proper kit for home distilling. For your own thoughts on your own manufactured moonshine, make a study of moonshine stills to ensure safe distilling and drinking; and you are on your way to singing about your own moonshine.