On Thursday, the voice that worked as a bridge between traditional Irish folk music and punk rock,
the sandpaper-like voice of the former Pogues frontman Shane MacGowan, fell silent at the age of 65. MacGowan’s wife, Victoria Clarke, confirmed the musician’s death in a statement.
The news from BBC conveyed that MacGowan peacefully departed in the early hours of Thursday at 3:30 am, embraced by the presence of his wife and sister.
In her statement, Clarke expressed the indescribable loss she is feeling and the longing for another smile that illuminated her world.
She thanked Shane for brightening the world and bringing joy to so many with his heart, soul, and music.
As per Sky News, MacGowan received a diagnosis of viral encephalitis in the previous year and sought medical care at Dublin Hospital for the treatment of this infection earlier this month. Two weeks ago, Clarke had shared on Instagram that they were facing a “terrifying bout.”
Nick Cave, who partnered with MacGowan during the ’90s, characterized him as a “genuine companion and the preeminent lyricist of his era.” He expressed deep sorrow at the news.
Irish President Michael Higgins honored MacGowan with a lifetime achievement award in 2018, recognizing the profound impact of his words in connecting Irish people worldwide with their culture and history, embodying a multitude of human emotions in the most poetic way.
For the past four decades, MacGowan, a singer, songwriter, and guitarist, shaped Irish sentiment by embracing traditional pub songs like “The Waxie’s Dargle” and “I’m a Man You Don’t Meet Every Day” alongside creating a tangible expression of Irish emotion with The Pogues’ “Dirty Old Town” and energetic rock songs with The Pogues, known for their spirited rock tunes.
His deep, raw voice, reminiscent of whiskey and accompanied by the Pogues’ slide-guitar-laden soundtrack, was the perfect combination for their rebellious, revved-up folk.
When he sang the opening lines of the Pogues’ iconic Christmas staple, “Fairytale of New York,” his guttural authenticity made you feel like you were right there with him during the arrest: “It was Christmas Eve, babe… in the drunk tank.”
MacGowan’s tumultuous lifestyle eventually began to overshadow his music, with drinking becoming more crucial than singing about it, leading to his departure from The Pogues.
Later, he formed Shane MacGowan and The Popes in 1992, rejoined The Pogues in 2001, and around 2015, distanced himself from them again. MacGowan later led the Shane Gang as a solo artist, collaborating with other musicians.
Although Clarke, his wife, mentioned he had found peace by 2016, his years of excess had taken a toll on him.
In the preceding year, during his departure from a studio, he had an unfortunate fall, resulting in a fractured pelvis and compelling him to navigate the remainder of his life in a wheelchair.
It seems that a challenging life was Shane MacGowan’s destiny, born on December 25, 1957, in Kent, Ireland, as Shane Patrick Lysaght MacGowan. In 1989, he shared with Rolling Stone, “From my early years, I’ve been acquainted with the taste of alcohol.
At the age of six, my first encounter was with a bottle of Guinness, followed by my first taste of whiskey at seven.”
It made the world go crazy; it opened up my mind to heaven… I haven’t been calm, straight-up calm since I was 14. I find no interest in being calm. Drinking makes things clearer for me.”
MacGowan’s mother, Therese, a typist, worked as a model in Dublin and performed traditional dance, while his father, Maurice, a clerical worker, had a literary inclination.
According to the singer’s official biography, they lived on a farm in Puckaun, Ireland, until the family, including Shane’s sister Siobhan, moved to London when Shane was six. By 1972, when Shane was around 14, he was expelled from school for keeping drugs.
At the age of 17, grappling with challenges to his mental well-being, he endured six months within the confines of a psychiatric ward. Then punk rock found him.
Inspired by the Sex Pistols and The Clash, MacGowan formed a fanzine named Bondage and, within a few years, became a member of his own gang called Nipple Erectors (later, Nips).
Their rockabilly-influenced first single, “King of the Bop,” came out in 1976. Nips disbanded in 1980.
After encountering Peter “Spider” Stacy, who played the tin whistle at a London tube station, MacGowan’s musical interests shifted.
After forming a group named The Millwall Chainsaws for a short time, he started singing and playing traditional Irish music in pubs around London (sometimes controversial when pub owners misunderstood him as an IRA agent).
Employing the moniker Pogue Mahone (Gaelic for “kiss my arse”), in collaboration with the ex-Nips guitarist Jim Fearnley, and adopting Pog Mahon (Gaelic for “kiss my arse”), under the name Pogue Mahone (Gaelic for “kiss my arse”), they unveiled “Dark Streets of London” in 1982.
MacGowan initiated the crafting of his original compositions, broadened the ensemble, and fashioned a lively allure for their notorious on-stage presentations.
Eventually, their name was shortened to The Pogues. In 1984, he self-released his first single, “Dark Streets of London,” featuring MacGowan’s lively lyrics about the pitfalls of roaming in London. Their first album, “Red Roses for Me,” came at the end of that year, and they began opening for The Clash.