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The Pogues star Shane MacGowan, best known for Christmas hit Fairytale Of New York, dies at 65 | Ents & Arts News


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Musician and singer Shane MacGowan, best known as the frontman of The Pogues, has died at the age of 65.

His wife Victoria Mary Clarke shared the news in a post on Instagram, saying: “Shane will always be the light that I hold before me and the measure of my dreams and the love of my life.”

MacGowan had suffered from several health issues in recent years and was treated in St Vincent’s Hospital in Dublin for an infection earlier this month. He was released from hospital last week ahead of his upcoming birthday on Christmas Day, with his former bandmates Spider Stacy and Terry Woods among those who visited him.

Latest updates: Wife leads tributes to ‘the most beautiful soul’

Former Pogues member Shane MacGowan performs on stage with his group The Popes, at the 10th annual Fleadh, in Finsbury Park, north London.
Shane MacGowan. Pic: @victoriamary
Pic: @victoriamary

A statement on behalf of Clarke, his sister Siobhan and father Maurice was also shared on The Pogues’ Instagram account, announcing MacGowan’s death with “the deepest sorrow and the heaviest of hearts”. He died peacefully in the early hours of this morning with family by his side, they said.

“I am blessed beyond words to have met him and to have loved him and 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,” Clarke said in her tribute.

“There’s no way to describe the loss that I am feeling and the longing for just one more of his smiles that lit up my world. You will live in my heart forever. Rave on in the garden all wet with rain that you loved so much. You meant the world to me.”

Shane MacGowan obituary: A wild life and a raw talent

Born in Kent on 25 December 1957, the Irish star will forever be associated with the festive period thanks to The Pogues’ 1987 hit, Fairytale Of New York, featuring the late Kirsty MacColl.

Throughout the 1980s and early ’90s, the trailblazing band also had hits including Dirty Old Town, The Irish Rover, A Pair Of Brown Eyes and A Rainy Night In Soho.

MacGowan was a punk rebel, almost as famous for his drinking and drug taking – and for the toll it took on his teeth – as he was for his music.

But he was a gifted storyteller from a young age, winning a Daily Mirror literary prize when he was 13, and a scholarship to Westminster School for his essays.

“I didn’t last there very long,” he told the Guardian in a 2013 interview. “I got nicked for smoking a joint and was kicked out.”

The Pogues in 1985: Shane MacGowan, Andrew Ranken, Jem Finer, Terry Woods, James Fearley, Philip Chevron, Spider Stacy and Cait O'Riordan. Pic: Everett/Shutterstock
The Pogues in 1985: Shane MacGowan, Andrew Ranken, Jem Finer, Terry Woods, James Fearley, Philip Chevron, Spider Stacy and Cait O’Riordan. Pic: Everett/Shutterstock

Pic: Mark Large/ANL/Shutterstock
MacGowan pictured with his wife, Victoria Mary Clarke. Pic: Mark Large/ANL/Shutterstock

He had been unwell in recent years, receiving treatment in hospital for encephalitis in December 2022, and spending time in intensive care in the summer.

MacGowan had also used a wheelchair since 2015 following several falls, breaking his pelvis and then his right knee.

The singer married Clarke, at a ceremony in Copenhagen in 2018, with his friend Johnny Depp playing guitar at their wedding.

Writing for the Irish Independent ahead of their nuptials, about the first time she met MacGowan at the age of 16, Clarke said she was “awe-struck”, before going on to detail a complicated relationship that “makes the Fairytale Of New York couple from Shane’s Christmas song seem tame and orderly”.

‘Nobody told the Irish story like Shane’

Shane MacGowan of The Pogues, performing at the St Patricks day  concert in Belfast city centre.
On stage during a St Patrick’s Day concert in Belfast city centre

Depp performed bass guitar for the Pogues during their performance on 'Top of the Pops'.

Irish premier Leo Varadkar paid tribute to “an amazing musician and artist”.

Writing on X, formerly Twitter, he said: “His songs beautifully captured the Irish experience, especially the experience of being Irish abroad.”

Singer Nick Cave, who recorded a cover of Louis Armstrong’s What A Wonderful World with MacGowan in 1992, described him as “a true friend and the greatest songwriter of his generation”.

Sinn Fein president Mary Lou McDonald was among those paying tribute, describing MacGowan as “a poet, a dreamer and a champion of social justice” and saying Ireland had lost “one of its most beloved icons and the world one of its greatest songwriters”.

She continued: “Nobody told the Irish story like Shane – stories of emigration, heartache, dislocation, redemption, love and joy.

“Shane brought his musical unique style to all corners of the world, and his music will continue to be enjoyed for generations to come.

“Today we mourn his passing. He was one of the best of us. Ni bheidh a leitheid aris ann.” (There won’t be the likes of him again).

Pop stars fronted by Bob Geldof, at the Irish Embassy in London to give details to Ireland's Ambassador Noel Dorr, about Self Aid, a 12 hour concert in Dublin to focus on the country's unemployment problems. From left: Pete Briquette (Boomtown Rats), Shane Macgowan (The Pogues), Van Morrison, Spider Stacey, Jem Finer (both Pogues), Noel Dorr, James fearnley (The Pogues), Bob Geldof, Elvis Costello, Cait O'Riodian (Pogues, hidden) and Paul Brady.
Musicians including MacGowan and his Pogues bandmates, as well as Van Morrison, Bob Geldof and Elvis Costello, pictured with former Ireland ambassador Noel Dorr while discussing Self Aid, a concert in Dublin to focus on the unemployment problems

Shane MacGowan (right) and Jarvis Cocker on stage during the 2010 NME Awards at the O2 Academy Brixton, London
On stage with Pulp’s Jarvis Cocker during the 2010 NME Awards

Irish President Michael D Higgins described MacGowan as one of “music’s greatest lyricists”.

Paying tribute, he said: “So many of his songs would be perfectly crafted poems, if that would not have deprived us of the opportunity to hear him sing them.

“The genius of Shane’s contribution includes the fact that his songs capture within them, as Shane would put it, the measure of our dreams – of so many worlds, and particularly those of love, of the emigrant experience and of facing the challenges of that experience with authenticity and courage, and of living and seeing the sides of life that so many turn away from.

“His words have connected Irish people all over the globe to their culture and history, encompassing so many human emotions in the most poetic of ways.”

He also said there was “particular poignancy” that MacGowan’s death had so closely followed that of fellow Irish singer-songwriter Sinead O’Connor, who died in July.

“Born on Christmas Day, there was perhaps some form of destiny which led Shane to writing Fairytale Of New York, the timeless quality of which will surely mean that it will be listened to every Christmas for the next century or more,” he said.

“Likewise songs like Rainy Night In Soho, A Pair Of Brown Eyes, If I Should Fall From Grace With God and so many others will live on far into the years and decades to come.

“I think too of Haunted, and the particular poignancy that both Shane and Sinead O’Connor have left us in such quick succession.”

He added: “It was a great honour for me, as President of Ireland, to present Shane with a lifetime achievement award in the National Concert Hall in January 2018 as we marked his 60th birthday. A richly deserved honour.”

Irish folk group The Wolfe Tones also paid tribute, describing MacGowan as a “lyricist supreme”.

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