Music Features Writer
4:36 PM 30th November 2023
Shane MacGowan, diagnosed with viral encephalitis, a serious condition that leads to brain swelling, has passed away at age 65.
The Irish songwriter’s wife, Victoria Mary Clarke, announced his death in a family statement, saying, 'Shane will always be the light that I hold before me, the measure of my dreams, and the love of my life.
She added, ‘I am blessed beyond words to have met him, to have loved him, to have been so endlessly and unconditionally loved by him, and to have had so many years of life and love and joy and fun and laughter and so many adventures.’
The singer and songwriter was the lead singer of Irish band The Pogues, who fused punk and Irish folk music together to create a distinctive sound, with the group coming to fame in the mid-eighties. The first time I saw the band was when they got one of their first big breaks by supporting Elvis Costello on tour. The memory of their performance on the tour at Leeds University is a vivid one and has stayed with me.
At the time, their brand of music was totally different from anything else around. While their performance was often chaotic and unpredictable, underneath lay a solid ground of uplifting music, carried along with the wit and observation of MacGowan’s lyrics. How often do you see, even today, a band concluding their allocated time on stage by constantly banging a tin tray over their heads? While it all may have seemed rather daft, somehow it appeared to fit in with the ethos of the group.
Shane’s life was plagued by ill health due to him living life to the full, including his alcohol and substance abuse, though he still went on to form Shane MacGowan and The Popes.
Shane wrote what is now arguably one of the best Christmas songs of years past, Fairytale of New York
, a duet with Kirsty McColl, which was first released in 1987. Like most of his songs, his talent as a great lyricist came to the fore with his words set against a sweeping melody that was at times melancholy, almost majestic, but always memorable.
Hopefully, the song will be rightly this year’s Christmas Number One—a fitting tribute to a musical talent who will sadly be missed but never forgotten.
Shane MacGowan, born 25th December 1957, died 30 November 2023.