A good old Irish Christmas song this week, in honor of Shane McGowan – who was born on December 25, 1957!

Hat tip Richard!

The Pogues were an English or Anglo-Irish Celtic punk band fronted by Shane MacGowan and others, founded in King’s Cross, London, in 1982, as Pogue Mahone—an anglicisation by James Joyce of the Irish phrase póg mo thóin, meaning “kiss my arse”. Fusing punk influences with instruments such as the tin whistle, banjo, cittern, mandolin and accordion, the Pogues were initially poorly received in traditional Irish music circles—the noted musician Tommy Makem called them “the greatest disaster ever to hit Irish music”—but were subsequently credited with reinvigorating the genre. The band later incorporated influences from other musical traditions, including jazz, flamenco, and Middle Eastern music.

The band started off playing in London pubs and clubs, and became known for their energetic, raucous live shows. After gaining wider attention as an opening act for The Clash on their 1984 tour, and shortening their name to the Pogues—to circumvent BBC censorship, following complaints from Scottish Gaelic speakers—they released their first studio album, Red Roses for Me, in October 1984.

In 1987, the Pogues’ arrangement of the folk song “The Irish Rover”, a collaboration with the Dubliners, reached number one in Ireland and number eight in the UK; the two bands performed the song on Ireland’s The Late Late Show and the UK’s Top of the Pops. Later in 1987, the Pogues released the Christmas single “Fairytale of New York”, co-written by MacGowan and Jem Finer and recorded as a duet between MacGowan and Kirsty McColl, which reached number one in Ireland and number two in the UK. The song remains a perennial Christmas favourite in the UK and Ireland; in December 2022, it was certified quintuple platinum in the UK, having achieved three million combined sales.

It was reported in July 2023 that MacGowan was hospitalised in an intensive care unit. Following treatment for an infection, he was discharged from St. Vincent’s University Hospital in November 2023. On 30 November 2023, after receiving last rites, MacGowan died from pneumonia at his home in Dublin with his wife by his side; he was 65.

Following MacGowan’s death, Tom Waits wrote on X: “Shane MacGowan’s torrid and mighty voice is mud and roses punched out with swaggering stagger, ancient longing that is blasted all to hell. A Bard’s bard, may he cast his spell upon us all forevermore”.[83]

Nick Cave called MacGowan “the greatest songwriter of his generation, with the most terrifyingly beautiful of voices”. Bruce Springsteen said the “passion and deep intensity of [MacGowan’s] music and lyrics is unmatched by all but the very best in the rock and roll canon… I don’t know about the rest of us, but they’ll be singing Shane’s songs 100 years from now”.

When Bob Dylan performed a concert in Dublin in 2022, he paid tribute to MacGowan while onstage, describing the former Pogues frontman as one of his “favourite artists”.

Paul Simon said MacGowan was “that kind of artist that needed to burn very brightly and intensely. Some artists are like that. They produce work that we treasure but they pay for it with their health – their bodily health and their mental health. That was Shane”.


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