seamus dubhghaill

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


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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 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.