By Le Figaro with AFP
The lead singer of the Celtic punk band used his drunken bard’s voice to perform provocative ballads about the oppressed and marginalized.
Shane MacGowan, singer of the Celtic punk band The Pogues, who has died aged 65, used his drunken bard’s voice to perform provocative ballads about the oppressed and marginalized. Dragging his disheveled appearance, his largely toothless smile, Shane MacGowan, who said he had never been sober since he was 14, regularly staggered on stage, as if echoing the characters whose disappointments he was singing about. His lyrics, marked by Celtic legends, recounted the life of the Irish and their diaspora, to music mixing Irish rhythms and punk energy.
“Kiss my ”
With The Pogues – whose name comes from the Irish Gaelic expression “póg mo thóin» (“kiss my “) – which he formed in 1982 with the player of “tin whistle» (a traditional flute from the British Isles) Spider Stacy, he enjoyed success in the 1980s. The Pogues’ greatest commercial success was Fairy Tale of New York, a 1987 duet between Shane MacGowan and Kirsty MacColl, about a romance between two misfits. This song has become a Christmas clic in Ireland and the United Kingdom. But his addictions to alcohol and consumed his entire life.
In 1988, the group was invited to open for Bob Dylan on tour in the United States but Shane MacGowan, too drunk, will never be able to get on the plane. “From his voice (…) by turns incoherent and lyrical, to his carefree lifestyle, through the harsh tenderness of his vision of the world, he is a true carefree anti-hero“, said the music critic Liam Fay of him.
Shane Patrick Lysaght MacGowan was born in England to Irish parents on December 25, 1957, who, he claimed, gave him two bottles of Guinness in the evening from the age of five. As a teenager, he won a scholarship to the very elite Westminster school in London but was expelled for drug possession. At 17, he was sent to rehab for a valium addiction.
He then became known on the London punk scene, under the name Shane O’Hooligan, imitating the fashion for pseudonyms in vogue at the time among singers, such as Johnny Rotten, Sid Vicious or Billy Idol. He created his first group The Nipple Erectors, before founding The Pogues in 1982.
Their first album Red Roses for Me was released in 1984 and the group opened for Clash, followed in 1985 by Rum, Sodomy and the Lashdescribed by Spin Magazine as containing “one of the purest poems in the history of punk-rock“.
Excluded from the group
The group also acts as the political voice of young Irish immigrants in London, anti-Thatcher and anti-censorship. In the midst of the “Troubles” in Northern Ireland in 1988, their song Streets of Sorrow/Birmingham Six tells the drama of six Northern Irish people wrongly convicted in 1975 for a bomb attack in a pub in this English city. They were exonerated in 1991 in what is considered one of the country’s greatest miscarriages of justice. The song was banned by the British government.
In 1988, the group released the album If I Should Fall from Grace with GodThen Peace and Love the next year. He was then at the peak of his success with two albums in the top 5 of the best sellers in Great Britain. But the group suffered from Shane MacGowan’s erratic and alcoholic behavior and he was expelled in 1991.I’m glad I made it out alive», he confided in 2004 to the newspaper The Guardian, as the band reformed for live shows.
In the meantime, Shane MacGowan had continued to sing with a new group, Shane MacGowan and The Popes. In 2016, his wife Victoria Clarke announced that he was finally sober even though he was a shadow of himself, and that he had even had his teeth done. He had since increased hospitalizations.
“Shane (…) who will always be the most beautiful soul and the most beautiful angel, and the sun and the moon, and the beginning and the end of everything has left to be with Jesus and Mary“, she wrote on Instagram on Thursday to announce her death.