Shane MacGowan, the lead singer of The Pogues, has died at the age of 65

An unmissable voice of Ireland whose music resonates so much in its pubs, Shane MacGowan, singer of the Celtic punk band The Pogues, died on Thursday, November 30 at the age of 65 after a long illness.

The Pogues singer Shane MacGowan in London in 1999. AP - Michael Walter

By: RFI Follow


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Shane (...) left to be with Jesus and Mary His wife Victoria Mary Clarke wrote on Instagram, without specifying the date of death. Shane MacGowan, who had been hospitalized several times since July, was born in England in 1957 to Irish parents. He founded the Pogues in 1982. At the time, he was playing Irish ballads in pubs performed at a hundred miles an hour by musicians who happily mixed Irish rhythms and punk energy.

Combining Celtic legends and drunkenness, The Pogues became in the 1980s the political voice of young Irish immigrants in London, anti-Thatcher and anti-censorship. The Pogues' biggest commercial success was Fairytale of New York, a 1987 duet between Shane MacGowan and Kirsty MacColl that became a Christmas classic tinged with Irish folklore.

He had created a link between this very Irish way of telling stories, mixed with his party animal, and then his London punk energy. He was a legend.


[Report] Ireland mourns Shane MacGowan

Clémence Pénard

But Shane MacGowan's alcohol and drug addictions plagued him for the rest of his life. He was known for his songs about the lives of the Irish and the Irish diaspora. At the Wall of Fame in Dublin, fans laid flowers and paid tribute to the musician, whose death comes after that of another Irish music figure, Sinead O'Connor.

Prime Minister's Tribute

Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar paid tribute on social media X to "an exceptional musician and artist". His deputy, Micheal Martin, said he was "devastated" by the death of Shane MacGowan, whom he called an "icon." "His passing is especially poignant at this time of year as we listen to 'Fairytale of New York,' a song that resonates with all of us," he wrote.

Tributes also came from Sinn Fein, the former political wing of the Irish Republican Army (IRA) paramilitary group, which fought for decades against British rule in Northern Ireland. In the midst of the "Troubles" in Northern Ireland, in 1988, the song Streets of Sorrow/Birmingham Six by the Pogues recounted the tragedy of six Northern Irishmen wrongly convicted in 1975 for a bombing in a pub in that English city that killed 21 people. They were exonerated in 1991 in what is considered one of the country's biggest miscarriages of justice.

MacGowan was "a poet, a dreamer, a champion of social justice," Sinn Fein president Mary Lou McDonald said. "He was a republican, a proud Irishman. No one has told the story of Ireland like Shane." For his predecessor, Gerry Adams, a central figure in the Troubles period, and a close friend of MacGowan and Clarke, "Ireland has lost a great patriot, a poet and a friend of the oppressed and marginalized."

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