SHANE MACGOWAN,
1957-2023

Shane MacGowan, the fiery singer and songwriter who uniquely married Irish music with punk-rock fury as leader of The Pogues, died Thursday (11/30) following a long period of ill health. He was 65.

His wife, Victoria Mary Clarke, announced his death on Instagram.

The son of Irish immigrants who moved around South East England, MacGowan played London’s punk clubs in the late 1970s with The Nips, forming The Pogues in 1982. They self-released a single, “Dark Streets of London,” that year, which led to a deal with Stiff Records and an opening slot on tour with The Clash.

The band mixed originals with covers, creating definitive versions of Ewan MacColl’s “Dirty Old Town” and Eric Bogle’s “And the Band Played Waltzing Matilda.” Their mainstream breakthrough came with their third album, 1988’s If I Should Fall From Grace With God, home to MacGowan’s enduring “Fairytale of New York,” featuring MacColl's daughter Kirsty MacColl, which has become a modern Christmas classic.

MacGowan’s vivid lyrics chronicled the hard-knock lives of Irish immigrants as he drew on Irish folk-music characters, literature and the Bible as sources. He was a compelling lead singer as well, who delivered powerful stage performances; he was simultaneously, famously, an uncontrollably destructive person.

The band fired him in 1991 after they'd made five albums together. He founded Shane MacGowan & The Popes in 1992, releasing two albums and touring throughout the 1990s. MacGown and The Pogues reunited in 2001 and toured through 2014.

At the time of his death, MacGowan, who'd used a wheelchair since a fall in 2015, had been working on an album with the Irish band Cronin.

Irish President Michael Higgins was among those paying tribute, writing: “His words have connected Irish people all over the globe to their culture and history… The genius of Shane’s contribution includes the fact that his songs capture within them, as Shane would put it, the measure of our dreams—of so many worlds, and particularly those of love, of the emigrant experience and of facing the challenges of that experience with authenticity and courage, and of living and seeing the sides of life that so many turn away from.”

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