seamus dubhghaill

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


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Birth of Singer Jimmy McShane

jimmy-mcshaneJames Harry McShane, Irish singer best known as the front man of Italian band Baltimora that had the hit song “Tarzan Boy,” is born in Derry, County Londonderry, Northern Ireland on May 23, 1957.

McShane learns at a young age to play bass and guitar. As a teenager, he is allegedly shunned by his family after they learn of his homosexuality. Later as a young man in the late 1970s, he leaves Northern Ireland to study at a stage school in London, where he learns to dance, sing and recite.

Hired as a stage dancer and backing singer, McShane soon goes around Europe with Dee D. Jackson and her band. During a visit to Italy with the band, he is attracted to the country’s underground dance scene, which leads to him settling in Milan in 1984. He tells Dick Clark on American Bandstand in 1986 that he fell in love with Italy from that moment. He also learns the Italian language.

McShane makes his debut playing in small clubs in his hometown and is presented to various audiences, without success. In view of his low artistic success, he decides to work as an Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) for the Red Cross until he meets Italian record producer and keyboardist Maurizio Bassi, with whom he creates Baltimora. The act finds success with its most popular single, “Tarzan Boy”, released in 1985.

In the United States, McShane is overwhelmed with the success of “Tarzan Boy”. Some sources state lead vocals are performed by Maurizio Bassi, the group’s keyboardist, with McShane actually providing the backing vocals. This still remains uncertain, and McShane lip synchs while appearing in the “Tarzan Boy” music video, and not Bassi. Both the music and the lyrics of Baltimora are written mostly by Bassi and Naimy Hackett, though McShane writes the lyrics to some of their songs, such as the single “Survivor in Love.”

After the release of “Survivor in Love,” with no label support for a follow-up album and due to its poor success, Bassi decides it is time to move on to other projects and Baltimora disbands.

The single “Tarzan Boy” bounces back into the Billboard Hot 100 chart in March 1993 as a remix, climbing to No. 51, at the time of its appearance in a Listerine commercial. The song is also featured in the films Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III (1993), Beverly Hills Ninja (1997) and is then referenced in A Million Ways to Die in the West (2014).

McShane is diagnosed with AIDS in Milan in 1994. A few months later he returns to Northern Ireland to spend his final year, and dies in his native Derry on March 29, 1995 at the age of 37. A family spokesman issues the following statement after his death: “He faced his illness with courage and died with great dignity.” In the centre of Derry, a commemorative plaque is bestowed upon the grave of McShane and his father, who had died three years prior.


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Gilbert O’Sullivan’s “Clair” Reaches No. 1 in UK Singles Chart

claire-gilbert-o-sullivanIrish-English singer-songwriter Gilbert O’Sullivan reaches No. 1 in the UK Singles Chart on October 29, 1972 with “Clair,” one of his biggest selling singles, from the album Back to Front. The song is written by O’Sullivan and produced by Gordon Mills.

“Clair” is the love song of a close family friend who babysits a young girl (actually the artist’s manager’s daughter), though for the first part of the song, the ambiguous text leads one to think that it is from one adult to another. The brief instrumental introduction is the sound of O’Sullivan whistling, before he comes in. The real Clair is the three-year-old daughter of O’Sullivan’s producer-manager, Gordon Mills and his wife, the model Jo Waring. The little girl’s giggling is heard at the end of the song. The “Uncle Ray” mentioned in the song is O’Sullivan himself, a reference to his real name of Raymond O’Sullivan. The instrumental break in the middle section is done half a step up from A to B-Flat, before going back to A.

“Clair” is the number one single in the UK Singles Chart for two weeks and number one in Canada on the RPM 100 national singles chart. In late December, it peaks at number two on the Billboard Hot 100 in the United States, behind both “Me and Mrs. Jones” by Billy Paul and “You’re So Vain” by Carly Simon. “Clair” is also O’Sullivan’s second and last number one hit on the United States Easy Listening chart, after “Alone Again (Naturally).”


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Birth of Pop Singer Dusty Springfield

dusty-springfieldMary Isobel Catherine Bernadette O’Brien, English pop singer and record producer known professionally as Dusty Springfield, is born on April 16, 1939, to Irish parents in West Hampstead, North London.

With her distinctive sensual mezzo soprano sound, she is an important blue-eyed soul singer and, at her peak, is one of the most successful British female performers, with six top 20 singles on the United States Billboard Hot 100 and sixteen on the United Kingdom Singles Chart from 1963 to 1989. She is a member of both the U.S. Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and U.K. Music Hall of Fame. International polls name Springfield among the best female rock artists of all time. Her image, supported by a peroxide blonde bouffant hairstyle, evening gowns, and heavy make-up, as well as her flamboyant performances on the black and white television of the 1960s, make her an icon of the Swinging Sixties.

Born in West Hampstead, London to a family that enjoys music, Springfield learns to sing at home. In 1958, she joins her first professional group, The Lana Sisters, and two years later forms a pop-folk vocal trio, The Springfields, with her brother Tom Springfield. Her solo career begins in 1963 with the upbeat pop hit I Only Want to Be with You. Among the hits that follow are Wishin’ and Hopin’ (1964), I Just Don’t Know What to Do with Myself (1964), You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me (1966), and Son of a Preacher Man (1968).

As a fan of U.S. pop music, she brings many little-known soul singers to the attention of a wider U.K. record-buying audience by hosting the first national TV performance of many top-selling Motown artists beginning in 1965. Although she is never considered a Northern Soul artist in her own right, her efforts contribute a great deal to the formation of the genre.

Partly owing to these efforts, a year later she eventually becomes the best-selling female singer in the world and tops a number of popularity polls, including Melody Maker‘s Best International Vocalist. She is the first U.K. singer to top the New Musical Express readers’ poll for Female Singer.

To boost her credibility as a soul artist, Springfield goes to Memphis, Tennessee to record Dusty in Memphis, an album of pop and soul music with the Atlantic Records main production team. Released in 1969, it has been ranked among the greatest albums of all time by the U.S. magazine Rolling Stone and in polls by VH1 artists, New Musical Express readers, and Channel 4 viewers. The album is also awarded a spot in the Grammy Hall of Fame. Despite its current recognition, the album does not sell well and after its release and Springfield experiences a career slump for several years. However, in collaboration with Pet Shop Boys, she returns to the Top 10 of the U.K. and U.S. charts in 1987 with What Have I Done to Deserve This? Two years later, she has two other U.K. hits on her own with Nothing Has Been Proved and In Private. Subsequently in the mid-1990s, owing to the inclusion of Son of a Preacher Man on the Pulp Fiction soundtrack, interest in her early output is revived.

In January 1994, while recording her penultimate album, A Very Fine Love, in Nashville, Dusty Springfield falls ill. When she returns to the United Kingdom a few months later, her physicians diagnose breast cancer. She receives months of chemotherapy and radiation treatment and the cancer goes into remission. In 1995, in apparent good health, Springfield sets about promoting the album, which is released that year. By mid-1996, the cancer has returned and, in spite of vigorous treatments, she dies in Henley-on-Thames on March 2, 1999. Her induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, Ohio, has been scheduled two weeks after her death. Her friend Elton John helps induct her into the Hall of Fame, declaring, “I’m biased but I just think she was the greatest white singer there ever has been … Every song she sang, she claimed as her own.”

Springfield is cremated and some of her ashes are buried at Henley-on-Thames, while the rest are scattered by her brother, Tom Springfield, at the Cliffs of Moher, County Clare, Ireland.