seamus dubhghaill

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


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Birth of Jimmy Kennedy, Songwriter & Lyricist

jimmy-kennedy-1James Kennedy, songwriter and lyricist, is born on July 20, 1902 near Omagh, County Tyrone in what is now Northern Ireland. He puts words to existing music such as “The Teddy Bears’ Picnic” and “My Prayer” and co-writes with composers Michael Carr, Wilhelm Grosz and Nat Simon, among others. In a career spanning more than fifty years, he writes some 2,000 songs, of which over 200 become worldwide hits and about 50 are all-time popular music classics.

Kennedy’s father, Joseph Hamilton Kennedy, is a policeman in the Royal Irish Constabulary (RIC). While growing up in the village of Coagh, Kennedy writes several songs and poems. He is inspired by local surroundings — the view of the Ballinderry River, the local Springhill House and the plentiful chestnut trees on his family’s property, as evidenced in his poem Chestnut Trees. He later moves to Portstewart, a seaside resort in County Londonderry.

Kennedy graduates from Trinity College, Dublin, before teaching in England. He is accepted into the Colonial Service, as a civil servant, in 1927.

While awaiting a Colonial Service posting to the colony of Nigeria, Kennedy embarks on a career in songwriting. His first success comes in 1930 with “The Barmaid’s Song”, sung by Gracie Fields. Fellow lyricist Harry Castling, introduces him to Bert Feldman, a music publisher based in London‘s “Tin Pan Alley“, for whom he starts to work. In the early 1930s he writes a number of successful songs, including “Oh, Donna Clara” (1930), “My Song Goes Round the World” (1931), and “The Teddy Bears’ Picnic” (1933), in which he provides new lyrics to John Walter Bratton‘s tune from 1907.

In 1934, Feldman turns down Kennedy’s song “Isle of Capri“, but it becomes a major hit for a new publisher, Peter Maurice. He writes several more successful songs for Maurice, including “Red Sails in the Sunset” (1935), inspired by beautiful summer evenings in Portstewart, Northern Ireland, “Harbour Lights” (1937) and “South of the Border” (1939), inspired by a holiday picture postcard he receives from Tijuana, Mexico and written with composer Michael Carr. He and Carr also collaborate on several West End shows in the 1930s, including London Rhapsody (1937). “My Prayer,” with original music by Georges Boulanger, has English lyrics penned by Kennedy in 1939. It is originally written by Boulanger with the title “Avant de Mourir” in 1926.

During the early stages of World War II, while serving in the British Army‘s Royal Artillery, where he rises to the rank of Captain, Kennedy writes the wartime hit, “We’re Going to Hang out the Washing on the Siegfried Line.” His hits also include “Cokey Cokey” (1945), and the English lyrics to “Lili Marlene.” After the end of the war, his songs include “Apple Blossom Wedding” (1947), “Istanbul (Not Constantinople)” (1953), and “Love Is Like a Violin” (1960). In the 1960s he writes the song “The Banks of the Erne'”, for recording by his friend from the war years, Theo Hyde, also known as Ray Warren.

Kennedy is a patron of the Castlebar Song Contest from 1973 until his death in 1984 and his association with the event adds great prestige to the contest.

Kennedy wins two Ivor Novello Awards for his contribution to music and receives an honorary degree from the New University of Ulster. He is awarded the OBE in 1983 and, in 1997, is posthumously inducted into the Songwriter’s Hall of Fame.

Jimmy Kennedy dies in Cheltenham on April 6, 1984 at the age of 81. He is interred in Taunton, Somerset.


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Birth of Singer & Songwriter Gavin Friday

Gavin Friday, born Fionán Martin Hanvey, Irish singer and songwriter, composer, actor and painter, is born in Dublin on October 8, 1959.

Friday grows up in Ballygall, a neighbourhood located on Dublin’s Northside between Finglas and Glasnevin where he went to school. When he is fourteen years old and living on Cedarwood Road, he meets Bono and Guggi at a party to which he has not been invited. Bono says, “We caught him trying to steal something of the house. Classic teenage stuff… but we became friends.”

Friday is a founding member of the post-punk group Virgin Prunes and has recorded several solo albums and soundtracks. In 1986, after the demise of The Virgin Prunes, he devotes himself to painting for a while, sharing a studio with Bono, Guggi and Charlie Whisker. This results in the exhibition Four Artists – Many Wednesdays (1988) at Dublin’s Hendricks Gallery. Friday, Guggi and Whisker show paintings, while Bono opts to exhibit photos taken in Ethiopia. Friday’s part of the show is entitled I didn’t come up the Liffey in a bubble, an expression often used by his father.

His main collaborator between 1987 and 2005 is multi-instrumentalist, Maurice Seezer. They sign to Island Records in 1988 and release three albums together, before parting with the company in 1996. After that Friday and Seezer compose the score for the Jim Sheridan films The Boxer and In America which is nominated for Best Original Film Score in the 2004 Ivor Novello Awards.

Friday has maintained a close friendship with U2‘s Bono since childhood, and they collaborate on the soundtrack for the Jim Sheridan’s film In the Name of the Father, including the title track, “Billy Boola” and “You Made Me the Thief of Your Heart”, which is sung by Sinéad O’Connor and nominated for a Golden Globe Award for Best Original Song. In 2003 they write “Time Enough for Tears,” the original theme tune for Sheridan’s film In America, as sung by Andrea Corr. The song is nominated for a Golden Globe Award for Best Original Song.

In 2005 Friday and Seezer collaborate with Quincy Jones on incidental music for the 50 Cent biopic Get Rich or Die Tryin’. In 2001 they score the film Disco Pigs by Kirsten Sheridan and two years later they also collaborated with Bono on Peter & the Wolf in aid of the Irish Hospice Foundation.

Taking time out from work on his fourth solo album with Herb Macken, Friday teams up with English composer Gavin Bryars, the Royal Shakespeare Company and Opera North for a new interpretation of William Shakespeare‘s Sonnets touring as part of the 2007 Complete Works Festival. Friday and Macken compose the music for the Patrick McCabe play, The Revenant, which opens as part of the 2007 Galway International Arts Festival.

In 2009 Friday and Macken work on Bryars’ fourth studio album. On April 6, 2010 Rubyworks Records announces the signing of Gavin Friday and that a new album is on its way. The new CD is titled catholic and is released in Ireland on Good Friday, April 22, 2011.


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Birth of Enya, Singer & Songwriter

Eithne Pádraigín Ní Bhraonáin, singer, songwriter, musician, and producer better known professionally as Enya, is born into a musical family in Dore, Gweedore, County Donegal on May 17, 1961.

Enya’s father, Leo Brennan, is the leader of the Slieve Foy Band, an Irish showband, and runs Leo’s Tavern in Meenaleck. Her mother, Máire Brennan (née Duggan), who has Spanish roots, is an amateur musician who plays in Leo’s band and teaches music at Gweedore Community School. Her maternal grandfather, Aodh, is the founder of the Gweedore Theatre company.

Enya begins her music career when she joins her family’s Celtic band Clannad in 1980 on keyboards and backing vocals. She leaves in 1982 with their manager and producer Nicky Ryan to pursue a solo career, with Ryan’s wife Roma Ryan as her lyricist. Enya develops her distinct sound over the following four years with multi-tracked vocals and keyboards with elements of new age, Celtic, classical, church, and folk music. She sings in ten languages.

Enya’s first projects as a solo artist include soundtrack work for The Frog Prince (1984) and the 1987 BBC documentary series The Celts, which is released as her debut album, Enya (1987). She signs with Warner Music UK which grants her considerable artistic freedom and minimal interference from the label. The commercial and critical success of Watermark (1988) propels her to worldwide fame, helped by its international top 10 hit single Orinoco Flow. This is followed by the multi-million selling albums Shepherd Moons (1991), The Memory of Trees (1995), and A Day Without Rain (2000). Sales of the latter and its lead single, Only Time, surge in the United States following its use in the media coverage of the September 11 attacks. Following Amarantine (2005) and And Winter Came… (2008), Enya takes an extended break from music. She returns in 2012 and releases Dark Sky Island (2015).

Enya is known for her private lifestyle and has yet to undergo a concert tour. She is Ireland’s biggest selling solo artist and second overall behind U2, with a discography that has sold 26.5 million certified albums in the United States and an estimated 80 million albums worldwide, making her one of the best-selling music artists of all time. A Day Without Rain (2000) remains the best selling new age album with an estimated 16 million copies sold worldwide.

Enya has won several awards throughout her career, including seven World Music Awards, four Grammy Awards for Best New Age Album, and an Ivor Novello Award. She is nominated for an Academy Award and a Golden Globe Award for May It Be, a song she writes for the film The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001).