Saturday, December 05, 2009

Liam Clancy, last of the Clancy Brothers, dies at 74


Irish folk pioneer Liam Clancy dies at 74
He was last member of Clancy Brothers, which took U.S. by storm in ’60s

updated 1:38 p.m. PT, Fri., Dec . 4, 2009

DUBLIN - Irish balladeer Liam Clancy, last of the Clancy Brothers troupe whose feisty, boozy songs of old Ireland struck a sentimental chord worldwide, died Friday in a Cork hospital. He was 74.

Clancy died in his hospital bed flanked by his wife Kim and daughters Siobhan and Fiona, his manager and family said. He suffered for years against incurable pulmonary fibrosis, the same lung-destroying disease that claimed one of his older singing brothers, Bobby, in 2002.

Ireland's arts minister, Martin Cullen, led nationwide tributes to Clancy, praising his "superb singing, warm voice and gift for communicating in a unique storytelling style."

"It was always so obvious with Liam Clancy that he loved what he was doing and his very presence made you feel welcome," Cullen said.

Clancy, the youngest of 11 children in a County Tipperary household filled with folklore and song, emigrated to the U.S. in 1956 to join two elder brothers, Tom and Patrick, in New York City who were singing on the side as they pursued budding careers as Broadway actors.

But after recording a 1956 album of Irish rebel songs, they grew a New York following as musicians and formed a partnership with Northern Ireland immigrant Tommy Makem. Soon they were earning more as weekend singers in Manhattan bars and clubs than as full-time stage actors.

Scouts for U.S. television's flagship “Ed Sullivan Show” spotted them performing in Greenwich Village's White Horse Tavern, and their 16-minute appearance in March 1961 on the program — extended because of the last-minute cancellation of another act — turned them into an Irish-American folk phenomenon.

Their agent cultivated a schmaltzy appeal to Irish emigrants worldwide, encouraging the Clancy Brothers and Makem to perform in cream-white Aran wool sweaters hand-knit from home as well as tweed fishermen's caps.

But their up-tempo resurrection of traditionally slow, sad Irish songs made a deeper impression on much of America's emerging folk artist movement, including Bob Dylan, who paid tribute to Liam Clancy as "the best ballad singer I'd ever heard in my life."

The Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem performed Carnegie Hall, toured Ireland, Britain, Australia and repeatedly throughout the U.S., and recorded more than a dozen albums before breaking up amid arguments over bills, babes and booze in 1974.


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