seamus dubhghaill

Promoting Irish Culture and History from Little Rock, Arkansas, USA

The Death of Bobby Clancy of The Clancy Brothers

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bobby-clancyRobert Joseph “Bobby” Clancy, Jr., singer and musician best known as a member of The Clancy Brothers, one of the most successful and influential Irish folk groups, dies on September 6, 2002, in Carrick-on-Suir, County Tipperary. He plays the five-string banjo, guitar, bodhrán, and harmonica.

Bobby Clancy is born on May 11, 1927, in Carrick-on-Suir, County Tipperary. Clancy leaves home in the late 1940s to join the Royal Air Force (RAF) where he travels all over Europe, including Greece and Egypt where he learns many folk songs. He later joins his older brothers Paddy Clancy and Tom Clancy in New York City, where they work as actors. The trio sometimes sing, informally beginning the group later known as The Clancy Brothers.

In 1955, Bobby returns to Ireland to settle down and run his father’s insurance business. His youngest brother Liam Clancy takes his place in America and officially forms The Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem with Paddy, Tom Clancy, and friend Tommy Makem. Bobby forges his own solo career, as well as performing the other half of two duos with sister Peg Clancy and an American folk singer named Sharon Collen. As a solo artist, Bobby brings his show to the small screen with his own TV series, When Bobby Clancy Sings, on Irish television.

When Tommy Makem leaves in 1969, Bobby takes his place and becomes a member of The Clancy Brothers. The four brothers, Paddy, Tom, Bobby, and Liam release three studio albums, Clancy Brothers Christmas, Flowers in the Valley, and Welcome to Our House.

Bobby’s initial tenure with The Clancy Brothers was short-lived. Bobby resumes his solo work, releasing a solo album Good Times When Bobby Clancy Sings and appearing live on a compilation album from a 1974 German Folk Festival, both in 1974.

In 1976, The Clancy Brothers disband for a few months. Liam Clancy and Louis Killen leave the group and remaining brothers Paddy and Tom decide to go on a hiatus. In 1977, plans are set into motion to regroup and Paddy and Tom ask Bobby to join. The three brothers recruit their nephew, singer-songwriter Robbie O’Connell.

The quartet tours part-time, performing three-month-long tours each year in March, August, and November only in the United States. They release two live albums, one in 1982 and the other in 1988. During the remaining part of the year, Bobby continues running the insurance business in Carrick-on-Suir and continues his solo career in Ireland.

Youngest brother Liam Clancy rejoins Bobby, Paddy, and Robbie in 1990 when brother Tom is diagnosed with stomach cancer and dies in November 1990. The Clancy Brothers now perform more frequently than they had in the 1970s and 1980s, appearing on numerous TV shows in America and Ireland. The quartet releases the group’s first studio album in over 20 years, Older But No Wiser, in late 1995, an title coined by Bobby’s wife Moira. Soon after the album’s release, Liam Clancy and Robbie O’Connell leave the group. Bobby and Paddy continue performing with Bobby’s son Finbarr Clancy and friend Eddie Dillon from Boston. This new line-up tours until November 1998 when Paddy dies from lung cancer. Now as a trio, the Clancys and Eddie Dillon record two live albums and Bobby Clancy releases an additional two solo albums.

In 1999 Bobby is diagnosed with pulmonary fibrosis and by 2000 he is unable to perform on his feet and the trio performs while sitting down. By March 2002, Bobby is unable to perform and has to quit a scheduled tour. On September 6, 2002, Bobby Clancy dies at the age of 75. At the time of his death he is back home in Ireland, long since living at the home of his parents on William Street in Carrick-on-Suir, the home where he was born.

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