Seán Feargal Sharkey, a singer from Northern Ireland most widely known as the lead vocalist of punk rock band The Undertones in the 1970s and 1980s, and for solo works in the 1980s and 1990s, is born in Derry, County Londonderry, Northern Ireland on August 13, 1958.
Sharkey joins The Undertones shortly after their formation in 1975. They have several UK hits, with songs such as “Teenage Kicks,” “Here Comes the Summer,” “My Perfect Cousin,” “Wednesday Week” and “It’s Going to Happen!” The band splits in 1983 citing musical differences, with Sharkey pursuing a solo career and other members of the band forming That Petrol Emotion the following year.
Before his solo career takes off, Sharkey is also the singer of the one-shot group The Assembly with ex-Yazoo and Depeche Mode member Vince Clarke (pre-Erasure). In 1983 their single “Never Never” is a No. 4 hit in the UK Singles Chart.
Sharkey’s debut single is a collaboration with Madness member Cathal Smyth titled “Listen to Your Father.” The single is released on Madness’s label Zarjazz in 1984, reaching No. 23 in the UK chart. The track is performed on Top of the Pops with members of Madness.
Sharkey’s solo work is significantly different from the post-punk offerings of The Undertones. His best-known solo material is the 1985 UK chart-topping single penned by Lone Justice frontwoman Maria McKee, “A Good Heart,” which goes to No. 1 in several countries including the UK in late 1985. He also has a UK Top 5 hit in 1986 with “You Little Thief.” His eponymous debut album reaches No. 12 in the UK Albums Chart.
Following on from his second album Wish in 1988, Sharkey achieves further success in 1991 with his UK Top 30 album Songs From The Mardi Gras, which produces the No. 12 hit single “I’ve Got News for You.”
Starting in the early 1990s Sharkey moves into the business side of the music industry, initially as A&R for Polydor Records, and then as managing director of EXP Ltd. He is appointed a member of the Radio Authority for five years from December 1998 to December 2003.
When the Undertones reunite in 1999, Sharkey is offered the opportunity to rejoin the group but turns down the offer. His position as lead vocalist/frontman for the Undertones is taken by fellow Derry native Paul McLoone, who is also a radio presenter for the Irish national and independent radio station, Today FM.
Sharkey becomes chairman of the UK Government task force the ‘Live Music Forum’ in 2004, to evaluate the impact of the Licensing Act 2003 on the performance of live music, and gives public evidence before the Culture, Media and Sport Committee on November 11, 2008.
In 2008, Sharkey is appointed as the CEO of British Music Rights, replacing Emma Pike. In October 2008, he becomes head of UK Music, an umbrella organisation representing the collective interests of the UK’s commercial music industry. He has become prominent in criticising the use of Form 696 by the Metropolitan Police requiring event promoters to provide data on performers and audiences. He resigns from UK Music on November 11, 2011.
In 2011 Sharkey makes a one-off appearance in a set named Erasure + Special Guests singing “Never Never.” He states that he has not sung live for 20 years and that Vince Clarke is the only person he would have returned for.
Sharkey appears on BBC Radio Newcastle, interviewed by Simon Logan on the afternoon show on August 7, 2013. He speaks about his career and his decision to retire from the stage. “I’ve had an absolutely brilliant career… It’s time to get off the stage and make room for [new artists].”
Sharkey is awarded the “Scott Piering Award” by the radio industry in 2004, the “Bottle Award” at the International Live Music Conference in 2006, and an Honorary “Doctor of Arts” by the University of Hertfordshire in 2008. In 2009 he enters The Guardian‘s MediaGuardian 100 at number 56. In 2010 he appears in Wired‘s The Wired 100 at number 45. The same year he receives a Doctor of Letters honoris causa from the University of Ulster in recognition of his services to music.
Sharkey is appointed Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in the 2019 Birthday Honours for services to music.