Friday 24 May 2019

Music world mourns Liam Clancy

TRIBUTES continued to pour in today for Liam Clancy, once described by Bob Dylan as "the best ballad singer" he had ever heard.

The last surviving member of the Clancy Brothers, he died in hospital in Cork yesterday after a long battle with pulmonary fibrosis, the same lung destroying disease that claimed one of his older brothers, Bobby, in 2002.

Liam (74) died in his hospital bed flanked by his wife Kim and daughters Siobhan and Fiona.

He was the youngest of the four Clancy brothers, with Paddy, Bobby and Tom all having passed away. Tommy Makem died two years ago.


Bob Dylan once noted: "I have never heard a singer as good as Liam, ever. He was just the best ballad singer I'd ever heard in my life. Still is, probably."

The Clancys had met the young Bob Dylan in the early 1960s in New York where they performed in pubs and cafes.

The Clancys and Tommy Makem were launched to stardom after a recording-breaking 16-minute performance on The Ed Sullivan Show in 1961. They became international stars with their trademark Aran jumpers and played a key role in the 60s folk revival, reworking traditional ballads.

To the end, family and friends noted how Liam Clancy kept his irreverent sense of humour. "For a guy who's dying, I'm not doing too bad," he remarked three months ago.

At his last public performance in May, he moved a Dublin audience to tears as he struggled to complete a 40-minute set and turned to poetry.


"He delivered Dylan Thomas' poem And Death Shall Have No Dominion. He knew at that time he was in close contact with his impending death, and yet he was able to connect with the audience and express his fear in a way that was both dignified and beautiful," said his manager, Dave Teevan.

Hours before his death on Friday, he spoke by telephone with his son, Donal, who is on tour in the US state of California. His other son, Eban, was travelling home from England.

Arts Minister Martin Cullen led nationwide tributes to Clancy, praising his "superb singing, warm voice and gift for communicating in a unique storytelling style. Liam Clancy was an example of an absolutely dedicated artistic craftsman.


"This generous and life-giving person enriched all of our lives with memorable songs," he said. "People in An Rinn in Waterford, in Carrick-on-Suir and around the world will mourn his passing. I extend my deepest condolences to his wife, his children and extended family at this very sad time," Mr Cullen said.

Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny said: "Liam's contribution to Irish music and culture was simply outstanding."

Singer Christy Moore said the death of his friend was like the end of an era.

"I would have been listening to Radio Luxembourg and rock 'n' roll as a young fellow and then I got to hear of the Clancy brothers, when I was 16 I came to Dublin to hear them in a concert," he said.

"It was about 1962, I think it was the Olympia, it was the most exciting concert I had ever attended."

He said: "It was Irish, it was rock 'n' roll, it was funky and it was even sexy."

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