Irish music icon and legendary Pogues frontman passes away after long illness

Written by Jeppe W

Nov.30 - 2023 1:12 PM CET

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Photo: Shutterstock.com
Photo: Shutterstock.com

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Shane MacGowan, the iconic lead singer and songwriter of the Celtic punk band The Pogues, has passed away at the age of 65 after a long period of ill health.

His wife, Victoria Mary Clarke, announced his passing, describing him as the light of her life and the love of her dreams. In December 2022, MacGowan was hospitalized with viral encephalitis and spent several months in intensive care in 2023.

Born on Christmas Day in 1957, MacGowan was known for infusing rock music with the energy of Irish folk. His work was influenced by literature, mythology, and the Bible.

With the Pogues, he brought attention to Irish culture and nationalism, often confronting and reclaiming the "Paddy" stereotype. MacGowan was also recognized for his songwriting skills, earning the Ivor Novello songwriting inspiration award in 2018.

MacGowan's most famous song, "Fairytale of New York," a duet with Kirsty MacColl, became a Christmas classic and reached No 2 in the charts in 1987.

He was born to Irish immigrants in England and grew up in a musical family, performing publicly from a young age. After being expelled from Westminster school for drug possession, he embraced punk music.

Despite struggling with drug and alcohol abuse, MacGowan argued that his lifestyle was also creatively productive.

He first gained attention with his band, The Nipple Erectors, later forming Pogue Mahone, which evolved into The Pogues. The band was known for its energetic live performances and released several classic albums, including "Red Roses for Me," "Rum Sodomy & the Lash," and "If I Should Fall From Grace With God."

MacGowan's health issues led to his departure from The Pogues in 1991, and he later formed Shane MacGowan and the Popes.

He rejoined The Pogues for a reunion from 2001 until 2014. His struggles with heroin were publicly known, and he expressed gratitude to Sinéad O’Connor for her intervention in helping him quit the drug.

In his later years, MacGowan used a wheelchair and worked on an unreleased album with the Irish band Cronin. He also released an art book to raise money for his care. MacGowan married Clarke in 2018, and he is survived by her and a son he fathered around 1991.

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