'Fairytale of New York' singer Shane MacGowan has died, aged 65

30 November 2023, 15:20

Shane MacGowan London 1997
Shane MacGowan London 1997. Picture: Getty

By Tom Eames

The Pogues star Shane MacGowan has passed away at the age of 65.

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His wife Victoria Mary Clarke said: "Shane will always be the light that I hold before me and the measure of my dreams and the love of my life".

The Irish singer had been battling several health issues in recent years.

Born in Kent on Christmas Day in 1957, Shane MacGowan was best known for The Pogues' festive 1987 hit, 'Fairytale Of New York', featuring the late Kirsty MacColl.

In the 1980s and 1990s, the Pogues also had hits such as 'Dirty Old Town', 'The Irish Rover', 'A Pair Of Brown Eyes' and 'A Rainy Night In Soho'.

MacGowan had been unwell for many years, and had been receiving treatment in hospital for encephalitis last year. He returned to hospital in November 2023.

The Pogues - Fairytale Of New York (Official Video)

Born in England to Irish parents, Shane grew up with a love for literature and music, especially the traditional songs of his ancestral homeland.

He started his career as a punk rocker in the late 1970s, but soon found his niche as the leader of the Pogues, a band that fused punk energy with Irish melodies and instruments. He performed some of the most iconic songs of the genre, such as 'Dirty Old Town', 'A Pair of Brown Eyes', and 'Fairytale of New York'.

He also collaborated with many artists, such as Kirsty MacColl, Joe Strummer, Nick Cave, and Johnny Depp.

His life and career have been marked by both brilliance and controversy, as he struggled with addiction, health issues, and personal conflicts. He is widely regarded as one of the most influential and original songwriters of his generation, and a cultural icon of Ireland.

Guinness Fleadh Festival - San Jose CA 1998
Guinness Fleadh Festival - San Jose CA 1998. Picture: Getty

Shane MacGowan got his start in music when he was a teenager. He was inspired by the punk rock band The Clash, who performed at a concert in London in 1976.

He was so impressed by their show that he got into a fight with some of the audience members, and his earlobe was cut by Jane Crockford, the bassist of The Mo-dettes.

A photographer took a picture of him covered in blood, which made the local newspapers with the headline "Cannibalism at Clash Gig".

After this incident, MacGowan formed his own punk band, The Nipple Erectors (later known as The Nips), which featured Shanne Bradley. They released four singles before splitting up in 1981. They also recorded a demo with Paul Weller, the guitarist of The Jam.

However, MacGowan soon realized that he wanted to combine his love for punk with Irish folk music. He moved back to Ireland and joined a band called Pogue Mahone, which later changed its name to The Pogues. He became the lead singer and songwriter of this band, which became one of the pioneers of Celtic punk.

Shane MacGowan married his long-time partner Victoria Mary Clarke in 2018, after being together for more than 30 years.

They had a private ceremony in Copenhagen, Denmark, with only a few close friends and family members.

According to an interview with Victoria Mary Clarke, they decided not to have children because they felt they were too indisciplined and irresponsible to be parents. She also said that they were happy with their dogs and cats, and that they considered them as their children.