Sunday, March 21, 2010

Liam Clancy: 1935 - 2009

(Video: Liam Clancy & Tommy Makem, The Parting Glass,
February 1977, National Stadium, Dublin)

One year when I was a kid, my brother and I got vinyl records for our birthdays. I was jealous, because he got The Two Sides of Leonard Nimoy, and all I got was The Best of The Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem. In the long run, though, I won big, because if you look at the end result of that birthday, I've got 100s of songs in iTunes that are by The Clancy Brothers, Tommy Makem, The Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem, and Liam Clancy and Tommy Makem. Not to mention Andy Stewart and Manus Lunny, the Irish Rovers, the Chieftains, Loreena McKennitt, Tamarion Roberts, various Pipe & Drum bands, and probably others that I'm not finding right now. Of course, I do have several albums worth of Leonard Nimoy and William Shatner :-). But I digress.

The Clancys and Tommy Makem were central to the Folk Revival of the 50s & 60s -- at least the Irish part. As a performance group the Clancy Brothers were Ireland's first pop stars, cutting 55 albums, selling millions of records, and appearing at Carnegie and Royal Albert Halls. They were a primary influence upon Bob Dylan.

Liam Clancy was the youngest Clancy brother and both played guitar and sang with the group. When performing with Tommy Makem, Liam sang and played guitar, banjo, and bhodhran. All of them joked. I used to go see Liam Clancy and Tommy Makem perform at the Marin Center in San Rafael. Eventually I knew their patter well enough to repeat it verbatim.

According to Wikipedia, Bob Dylan regarded Liam Clancy as the greatest ballad singer in the world. Next to that, my opinion is unimportant, but I agree.

I'm sorry he's gone. He was the last, dying December 4, 2009. Tom Clancy died on November 7, 1990; Patrick Clancy died on November 11, 1998; and Tommy Makem died on August 1, 2007.