seamus dubhghaill

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


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Birth of Shane MacGowan, Lead Singer of The Pogues

shane-macgowanShane Patrick Lysaght MacGowan, Anglo-Irish musician and singer, best known as the lead singer and songwriter of Celtic trad punk band The Pogues, is born to Irish parents in Pembury, Kent, England, on December 25, 1957.

MacGowan spends his early childhood in County Tipperary, before his family moves back to England when he is six years old. He lives in many parts of the southeast of England, including Brighton and London.

MacGowan’s father, Maurice, works for a department store. MacGowan’s mother, Therese, is a singer and traditional Irish dancer, and has worked as a model in Dublin. In 1971, after attending Holmewood House School at Langton Green, Tunbridge Wells, MacGowan earns a literature scholarship and is accepted into Westminster School. He is found in possession of drugs and is expelled in his second year.

MacGowan gets his first taste of fame in 1976 at a concert by British punk band The Clash, when his earlobe is damaged by Jane Crockford, later to be a member of Mo-dettes. A photographer snaps a picture of him covered in blood and it makes the papers, with the headline “Cannibalism at Clash Gig.” Shortly after this, he forms his own punk rock band, The Nipple Erectors, later renamed The Nips.

MacGowan draws upon his Irish heritage when founding The Pogues and changes his early “punk” voice for a more authentic sound with tutoring from his extended family. Many of his songs are influenced by Irish nationalism, Irish history, the experiences of the Irish in London and the United States, and London life in general.

Between 1985 and 1987, he co-writes “Fairytale of New York,” which he performs with Kirsty MacColl. In the coming years MacGowan and The Pogues release several albums.

After The Pogues throw MacGowan out for unprofessional behaviour, he forms a new band, Shane MacGowan & The Popes, recording two studio albums, a live album, three tracks on The Popes Outlaw Heaven (2010) and a live DVD, and touring internationally. From December 2003 until May 2005, Shane MacGowan & The Popes tour extensively in the UK, Ireland, and Europe.

The Pogues and MacGowan reform for a sell-out tour in 2001 and each year from 2004 to 2009 for further tours, including headline slots at GuilFest in England and the Azkena Rock Festival in Basque Country. In May 2005, he rejoins The Pogues permanently.

The Pogues’ last performance on British soil occurs on July 5, 2014 at the British Summer Time festival in London’s Hyde Park.

For many years MacGowan suffers from binge drinking and heroin use. In 2001, Sinéad O’Connor reports MacGowan to the police in London for drug possession in what she says is an attempt to discourage him from using heroin. Initially furious, MacGowan later expresses gratitude towards O’Connor and claims that the incident helped him kick his heroin habit.

MacGowan has long been known for having very bad teeth. He loses the last of his natural teeth around 2008. In 2015, he has 28 new dentures on a titanium frame fitted in a nine-hour procedure which is the subject of an hour-long television programme. Dr. Darragh Mulrooney, the dental surgeon who carries out the procedure, comments that MacGowan recorded most of his great works while he still had some teeth: “We’ve effectively re-tuned his instrument and that will be an ongoing process.”

In the summer of 2015, MacGowan falls as he is leaving a Dublin studio, fracturing his pelvis. He is seen in public on crutches by December 2015, and continues to experience difficulty with general mobility.

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Death of Singer & Songwriter Kirsty MacColl

kirsty-maccollKirsty Anna MacColl, English singer and songwriter, dies on December 18, 2000, at the age of 41 after being hit by a powerboat while on holiday in Cozumel, Mexico.

MacColl records several pop hits between the early 1980s and the 1990s, including “There’s a Guy Works Down the Chip Shop Swears He’s Elvis” and cover versions of Billy Bragg‘s “A New England” and The Kinks‘ “Days.” She also sings on recordings produced by her husband Steve Lillywhite, most notably “Fairytale of New York” by The Pogues.

Early in her career, MacColl signs a solo deal with Stiff Records. She moves to Polydor Records in 1981 but they drop her just as she has completed recording the songs for a planned second album. She returns to Stiff Records however, following their 1986 bankruptcy, MacColl is left unable to record in her own right, as no record company buys her contract from the Official Receiver. She has regular session work as a backing vocalist, and she frequently sings on records produced or engineered by her husband including tracks for Robert Plant, The Smiths, Alison Moyet, Shriekback, Simple Minds, Talking Heads, Big Country, Anni-Frid Lyngstad (of ABBA), and The Wonder Stuff among others.

MacColl re-emerges in the British charts in December 1987, reaching Number 2 with The Pogues on “Fairytale of New York,” a duet with Shane MacGowan. This leads to her accompanying The Pogues on their British and European tour in 1988.

After the contract issue is resolved, MacColl returns to recording as a solo artist and receives critical acclaim upon the release of Kite in 1989. While continuing to write and record, she is also featured on the British sketch comedy French and Saunders.

In 2000, following her participation in the presentation of a radio programme for the British Broadcasting Corporation in Cuba, MacColl takes a holiday in Cozumel, Mexico, with her sons and her partner, musician James Knight. On December 18, she and her sons go diving at the Chankanaab reef, part of the National Marine Park of Cozumel, in a designated diving area that watercraft are restricted from entering. With the group is a local veteran divemaster, Iván Díaz. As the group is surfacing from a dive, a powerboat moving at high speed enters the restricted area. MacColl sees the boat coming before her sons. Louis, then 13, is not in its path, but 15-year-old Jamie is. She is able to push him out of the way but in doing so she is struck by the boat and dies instantly. MacColl’s body is repatriated to the United Kingdom and is cremated after a humanist funeral at Mortlake Crematorium in South-West London.

empty-bench-in-soho-squareIn 2001, a bench is placed by the southern entrance to London’s Soho Square as a memorial to MacColl, after a lyric from one of her most poignant songs: “One day I’ll be waiting there / No empty bench in Soho Square.” Every year on the Sunday nearest her October 10 birthday, fans from all over the world hold a gathering at the bench to pay tribute to her and sing her songs.

MacColl’s collaboration with the Pogues, “Fairytale of New York,” remains a perennial Christmas favourite. In 2004, 2005, and 2006, it is voted favourite Christmas song in a poll by music video channel VH1. The song is re-released in the United Kingdom in December 2005, with proceeds being split between the Justice for Kirsty Campaign and charities for the homeless. The re-release reaches number 3 on the U.K. charts, and spends five weeks in the top 75 over the Christmas and New Year period. It reaches the top 10 for the third time in its history in 2006, peaking at number 6, and charts yet again in December 2007. The song also makes the Top 20 in subsequent years, and has spent more time in the top 20 than any other song.


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Birth of Irish Folk Singer Moya Brennan

moya-brennanMoya Brennan, born Máire Ní Bhraonáin, Irish folk singer, songwriter, harpist, and philanthropist, is born in Dublin on August 4, 1952.

After leaving secondary school, Brennan spends a few years at the Royal Irish Academy of Music in Dublin studying the harp, the piano, and singing. She has also taught music at Holy Cross College in Falcarragh, County Donegal.

In 1970 Brennan joins her two brothers, Pól and Ciarán, and their mother’s twin brothers, Noel and Pádraig Ó Dúgáin, and form the band Clannad. They are identified and introduced to television by Tony MacMahon. After enjoying a decade of being among the world’s foremost Irish musical groups, Clannad graduates to chart success in 1982 with the album Magical Ring. Brennan is at the forefront of the group’s success and her voice suddenly becomes synonymous with Celtic music and Irish music at the time. Brennan records 17 albums with Clannad and wins a Grammy Award, a BAFTA, and an Ivor Novello award with the quintet. Her sister, Eithne Ní Bhraonáin, who spends some time with Clannad, continues to pursue a very successful solo career under the name Enya.

Brennan releases her first solo album in 1992, Máire, on Atlantic Records. Misty Eyed Adventures on BGM follows three years later. In 1998, Brennan signs with Word Records and releases Perfect Time, and Whisper to the Wild Water a year later. The album is nominated for the Grammy Award for Best New Age Album in 2001.

Brennan’s autobiography, The Other Side of the Rainbow, is published in 2000 and she performs her song Perfect Time live at World Youth Day in Rome in front of crowds of pilgrims and Pope John Paul II. There are 2.1 million people present, making it the largest crowd ever gathered in the Northern Hemisphere.

In film, Brennan is a featured vocalist on King Arthur (2004), co-writing the title theme Tell Me Now (What You See) with Hans Zimmer. She also writes an additional music score for To End All Wars (2001). In 1995, she duets with Shane MacGowan on You’re the One for the movie Circle of Friends. Brennan has collaborated with many other musicians, including Chicane, Alan Parsons, Bono, Robert Plant, Van Morrison, Michael McDonald from the Doobie Brothers, Bruce Hornsby, Joe Elliott, The Chieftains, Paul Young, Paul Brady, Michael Crawford, Joe Jackson, and Ronan Keating.

In total Brennan has recorded 25 albums, and has sold 20 million records. Brennan and Clannad are credited with the creation of contemporary Celtic music and are held in high esteem for their vast contribution to bringing new life to old Irish songs. They have been compared to Seán Ó Riada, in that they brought the Irish language into popular culture through their music. One critic said, “Clannad’s music offers a terrific fusion between traditional and modern influences.” U2 front man Bono says of her voice, “I think Máire has one of the greatest voices the human ear has ever experienced.”


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Birth of “Jem” Finer, Founding Member of The Pogues

jem-finerJeremy Max “Jem” Finer, English musician, artist, composer, and one of the founding members of The Pogues, is born in Stoke-on-Trent, England on July 20, 1955.

After college at Keele University, Finer travels around Europe and spends some time working on a barge in France. He settles in London and becomes the bass player in a group called The Petals and lives in 32 Burton Street, a house which he sometimes shares with Spider Stacey and Shane MacGowan. Together with James Fearnley they found The Pogues. Primarily a banjoist, he also plays other instruments, including mandola, saxophone, hurdy-gurdy, and the guitar. Apart from Shane MacGowan, Finer is the most prolific composer for the band.

Finer appears on all the band’s albums until their breakup in 1996. He continues working as a musician and composer after leaving The Pogues.

On January 1, 2000, the Finer-composed Longplayer piece of music is started and is designed to last 1,000 years without ever repeating itself. It currently exists in both computer-generated and live versions. Longplayer represents a convergence of many of his concerns, particularly those relating to systems, long-durational processes, and extremes of scale in both time and space.

Finer serves as “Artist in Residence” at the Astrophysics Sub-department of the University of Oxford between October 2003 and June 2005. Finer and Hamburg-based swamp pop legend DM Bob begin recording and performing together in 2005, releasing their album Bum Steer in August of that year and co-producing the debut album by experimental pop band Marseille Figs. In July 2005, Finer wins the PRS Foundation New Music Award on the basis of his proposal to build a device that will automatically “compose” a song of indeterminate length by harnessing the creative force of the weather.

In March 2012, Mobile Sinfonia, a global composition for ringtones is launched, developed during a year Finer spends as a non-resident artist at the University of Bath. This piece concerns mutual invasion of soundscape via ringtones.

Finer is currently working on a number of new projects continuing his interest in long-term sustainability and the reconfiguring of older technologies, including Spiegelei, a spherical camera obscura featuring Finer’s innovative 360-degree projection system and the Supercomputer in Cambridge, a 5-bit mechanical sculpture which will compute minimal musical scores.


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Birth of The Pogues’ Guitarist Philip Chevron

philip-chevronPhilip Ryan, Irish singer-songwriter and guitarist professionally known as Philip Chevron and best known as a member of The Pogues, is born on June 17, 1957. He is regarded as one of the most influential figures in Irish punk music.

Chevron grows up in Santry, a suburb of Dublin. Beginning in the late 1970s, he is lead singer and co-founder of the punk rock group The Radiators from Space, receiving some critical acclaim but little widespread popularity or financial success. Following a temporary breakup of the band in 1981, he lives in London for a while where he meets and befriends Shane MacGowan through time spent working together at a record shop. Following the release of the Pogues’ 1984 debut album Red Roses For Me, Chevron is invited to join the band as a temporary replacement for banjo player Jem Finer while on paternity leave. He takes over as guitarist following MacGowan’s decision to concentrate on singing, thereby becoming a full-time member of the band in time for the recording of its second album, Rum, Sodomy and the Lash.

Chevron proves himself as a singer-songwriter, writing the songs Thousands Are Sailing and Lorelei among others. He leaves The Pogues in 1994 following problems with drugs and alcohol. In 2003, he reforms The Radiators (Plan 9) with ex-Pogues bassist Cait O’Riordan. They release the album Trouble Pilgrim in 2006.

In later years, he becomes The Pogues’ unofficial spokesperson and resident expert on the reclusive MacGowan, frequently visiting online fora and directly answering questions from fans. In 2004, he personally oversees the remastering and re-release of The Pogues’ entire back catalogue on CD. He tours regularly with The Pogues, who reunite after a successful reunion tour in 2001.

In June 2007, The Pogues’ website announces that Chevron has been diagnosed with oesophageal cancer. In early 2008, the website announces that Chevron has recovered, and to his surprise and joy, his hearing has returned to almost pre-treatment levels. He embarks on the March 2008 tour of the United States and manages to sing Thousands Are Sailing at each performance. By 2009, Chevron appears to have recovered from the cancer.

However, in May 2013, it is announced that the cancer has returned and it is “lethal.” In June he stoically tells the Irish Daily Mail, “I am a gay, Irish, Catholic, alcoholic Pogue who is about to die from cancer – and don’t think I don’t know it.” Chevron dies on October 8, 2013 in Dublin at the age of 56. His last public appearance is at the Olympia Theatre in Dublin for a fundraiser in August of that same year.