Liam Clancy

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Liam Clancy
Odetta & Liam.jpg
Liam Clancy (right) with singer Odetta in 2006.
Background information
Birth name William Clancy
Born (1935-09-02)2 September 1935
Origin Carrick-on-Suir, County Tipperary, Ireland
Died 4 December 2009(2009-12-04) (aged 74)
Cork, Ireland
Genres Folk, traditional Irish
Occupations Musician, actor
Instruments Vocals, guitar, concertina
Years active 1955–2009
Associated acts The Clancy Brothers, Makem and Clancy
Website http://www.liamclancy.com/

William "Liam" Clancy (2 September 1935 – 4 December 2009) (Irish Liam Mac Fhlannchadha) was an Irish folk singer and actor from Carrick-on-Suir, County Tipperary. He was the youngest and last surviving member of performing group The Clancy Brothers. The group were regarded as Ireland's first pop stars.[1] They recorded 55 albums, achieving global sales of millions and appearing at a sold-out Carnegie Hall, New York and the Royal Albert Hall, London.[2][3]

Liam was regarded as the group's most powerful vocalist.[4] Bob Dylan regarded him as the greatest ballad singer ever,[1][3][5][6] whilst Gay Byrne described him as one of the “most famous four Irishmen in the world”.[2] He was a central figure during the 1960s folk revival,[3] on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean.[7] Shortly before his death in 2009 The Irish Times said Clancy "does seem a little like a figure from the Pleistocene era":[8] upon his death the newspaper said his legacy was secured.[7]


Early life[edit]

He was born at Carrick-on-Suir, County Tipperary, Ireland on 2 September 1935.[9] He was Robert Joseph Clancy and Joanna McGrath's ninth and youngest surviving child (two others died in childhood).[2] As a child, he was known as William or Willie.[9] He displayed an artistic disposition at an early age, while growing up in Carrick-on-Suir, County Tipperary. The first song he learned was "The Croppy Boy".[4] He received a Christian Brothers education before taking a job as an insurance man in Dublin.[2] Whilst there he also took night classes at the National College of Art and Design.[2]

However, while still in his teens, Liam explored writing and painting, though he was particularly drawn to the theatre. In his early performing days, he began to call himself Liam rather than William or Willie. Before he was twenty years old, Liam had founded the local dramatic society now called "Brewery Lane Theatre and Arts Centre", and had produced, directed, set-directed, and starred in John Millington Synge's The Playboy of the Western World. Liam also performed at the renowned Gaiety Theatre in Dublin.[10] He encountered Diane Hamilton Guggenheim when she came to his hometown to visit his mother, and set off on a tour of Ireland alongside her.[2][3] During her 1955 trip to Keady, Clancy encountered Tommy Makem for the first time.[2] He would later pursue Guggenheim to the United States.[3] He referred to Greenwich Village as "the island for people escaped from repressed backgrounds".[7]

Singing career[edit]

Clancy Brothers[edit]

Clancy began singing with his brothers at fund-raising events for the Cherry Lane Theatre and the Guthrie benefits. The Clancy Brothers & Tommy Makem, began recording on Paddy Clancy's Tradition label in the late 1950s. Liam Clancy played guitar in addition to singing and also recorded several solo albums. They recorded their seminal The Rising of the Moon album in 1959, giving live performances in the American cities of Boston, Chicago and New York.[2] A record-breaking sixteen minute long performance[9] on American TV's The Ed Sullivan Show on 17 March 1961 launched the group into stardom.[2][3] They were supposed to only play two songs but the main act cancelled at short notice.[11] There were international tours, which included performances at Carnegie Hall (a sell-out in 1962)[11] and the Royal Albert Hall.[3] Their trademark attire was Aran geansaí—these were sent across the water by Mrs Clancy for her boys to wear against the unforgiving American climate.[3] The quartet recorded numerous albums for Columbia Records and enjoyed great success during the 1960s folk revival. Liam was a close friend of Bob Dylan when they both were going out with two sisters in New York. He performed live for United States President John F. Kennedy.[12] Liam played the guitar in almost all the recordings of the Clancy Brothers, but he took lead vocals in many songs such as "Port Lairge", "The Jolly Tinker", "God Bless England", "Will Ye Go, Lassie, Go?", "The Juice of the Barley", "Patriot Game", "The Parting Glass", "Gallant Forty-Twa", "Kelly, the Boy from Killann", "Wild Rover", "Nightingale", "Galway Races", "Eileen Aroon". "Green in the Green", "Blackwater's Side", "Peggy Gordon", "Home Boys Home", "Old Maid in the Garrett", "Love Is Kind", "Bold Tenant Farmer", "Early Morning Rain", "All for My Grog", and so on. Liam Clancy was the last surviving member of the original Clancy Brothers; Tom Clancy died on November 7, 1990, Patrick Clancy died on November 11, 1998, and Tommy Makem died on August 1, 2007. Bobby Clancy, who had joined the group in 1969, died on September 6, 2002. Liam said of his status as last known survivor,

“There was always a pecking order, especially when you’re working with family. But they all died off, and I got to the top of the pecking order, with nobody looking over my shoulder. There’s a great sense of freedom about that”.[2]

Solo career[edit]

After The Clancy Brothers split, Liam had a solo career in Canada.[3] He made several television performances both in CBC's National television variety show, The Irish Rovers Show from Vancouver and in Calgary, Alberta.[2] He had a hit with "The Dutchman" and presented his own television show in Calgary, also appearing on the CBC concert series Summer Evening in 1976.[13] In 1975, he was booked to play a festival in Cleveland, Ohio, USA, where Tommy Makem was also playing.[2] The two played a set together and formed Makem and Clancy, performing in numerous concerts and recording several albums as a duo, until 1988.[2] The whole ensemble also got back together in the 1980s for a reunion tour.[2][3] After the death of Tom Clancy in 1990, Liam came together with Paddy and Bobby Clancy and nephew Robbie O'Connell.[2] He also performed alongside his Fayreweather Band and the Phil Coulter Orchestra.[2]

In later life, Liam maintained a solo career accompanied by musicians Paul Grant and Kevin Evans, whilst also engaging in other pursuits. He lived in Ring, County Waterford at this stage.[3] His home in Waterford was designed by the celebrity architect, Duncan Stewart, and featured solar panels which were innovative at the time. He subsequently converted his large garage into a recording studio.[2][14]

In 2001, Liam Clancy published a memoir titled The Mountain of the Women. He also was in No Direction Home, the 2005 Bob Dylan documentary directed by Martin Scorsese.[2]

In 2006, Clancy was profiled in a two-hour documentary titled The Legend of Liam Clancy, produced by Anna Rodgers and John Murray with Crossing the Line Films, and screened on the Irish channel RTÉ. In February 2007, this documentary won the award for best series at the Irish Film and Television Awards in Dublin. In 2008 Liam performed in a filmed concert titled Liam Clancy and Friends, Live at The Bitter End which featured the last filmed performance of his friend Odetta, as well as songs from Tom Paxton, Shane MacGowan, Gemma Hayes, Eric Bibb, and Fionn Regan as well as members of Danú.

The same director Alan Gilsenan went on to direct a full length biography of Liam Clancy, The Yellow Bittern: The Life and Times of Liam Clancy.[5] This was released at the 2009 Dublin Film Festival and went on to have a theatrical and DVD release in Ireland the UK. The film includes appearances by Pete Seeger, Jean Ritchie, Bob Dylan, Odetta, and many others[12] as well as much unseen archive such as The Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem at Newport Festival. The Irish Times praised the film and director Gilsenan who it said had "tracked down an impressive number of secondary sources, and his use of other performers’ music is often inspired".[8]

His final album The Wheels of Life was released in 2009: this included duets with Mary Black and Gemma Hayes as well as songs by Tom Paxton and Donovan.[2]


Liam was an ardent proponent of political views and often outspoken on matters of social injustice right up until his death.[15] He criticised both Gulf Wars and the grim, harsh economic climate which gripped Ireland during his last months alive.[4] He told The Irish Times in September 2009 that he was on his “last legs”.[16] He had already given his final performance, at the National Concert Hall the previous May, during which he recited the Dylan Thomas poem "And death shall have no dominion".[16] He was unable to perform a full-length show on the final night of a two-night sold-out run but put in a 40-minute appearance nonetheless.[17] His manager described it as “a very profound moment. He expressed his fear of dying, but he did it with great dignity”.[16]

Death[edit]

Liam Clancy died from pulmonary fibrosis on 4 December 2009, in Bon Secours Hospital in Cork, Ireland. Bobby Clancy died of the same disease seven years previously[5] and is buried in the new cemetery in Ring, Co. Waterford, where he spent the last number of years of his life, owning a successful recording studio. Clancy was survived by his wife, Kim, and their four children, Eben, Siobhán, Fiona and Donal, as well three previous children Sean, Andrew and Anya.[3][5] His son Eben was in the process of coming over from the United Kingdom and he had had a chat with his son Donal who was in the middle of a tour of California.[17] The other three sat beside him as he died.[3] Liam had intended to give another interview at the time but succumbed to the disease before this was possible.[17]

The leader of Fine Gael, Enda Kenny, mourned the loss of a "brilliant musician".[5] Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism Martin Cullen said, "Liam Clancy was a nationally and internationally renowned folk singer and was an example of an absolutely dedicated artistic craftsman. This generous and life-giving person enriched all of our lives with memorable songs and was part of the fabric of Ireland’s proud traditional music culture".[18] Alan Gilsenan described the death as the "end of an era".[5]

The American city of Boston was said to be in shock at the news as his influence there is "inescapable".[19] Radio disc jockeys in New York paid tribute to the man who, according to the New York Daily News, "played a major role in defining how Americans heard Irish popular music over the last half century", with one DJ saying The Clancy Brothers had "broke down a wall that was long overdue".[20] Christy Moore, on a prescheduled appearance on The Late Late Show aired live on the night of Liam's death, said, "I would have been listening to Radio Luxembourg and rock 'n' roll as a young fellow and then I got to hear of the Clancy brothers, when I was 16 I came to Dublin to hear them in a concert. It was about 1962, I think it was the Olympia, it was the most exciting concert I had ever attended. It was Irish, it was rock 'n' roll, it was funky and it was even sexy".[21][22]

Clancy's lunchtime funeral at St Mary's Church in Dungarvan on 7 December was attended by hundreds of mourners, including both the Aides de Camp of the Taoiseach and President of Ireland, Minister Cullen and various musicians and artists.[23] He was later buried in Ring.[23]

Discography[edit]

Solo recordings[edit]

  • 1965 – Liam Clancy – Vanguard LP/CD

*re-released with bonus tracks as 'Irish Troubadour' on Vanguard CD

  • 1974 – Farewell to Tarwaithie – Plainsong LP

*on Shanachie CD as "The Dutchman"

  • 2007 - Yes Those Were The Days: The Essential Liam Clancy Dolphin Records
  • 2008 - “The Wheels of Life”, Dolphin Records

Guest recordings[edit]

  • 1955 – The Lark in the Morning – Tradition LP/Rykodisc CD
  • 1956 – The Countess Cathleen – Tradition LP
  • 1989 – Phil Coulter: Words and Music – Shanachie CD
  • 1992 – Phil Coulter: A Touch of Tranquility – Shanachie CD
  • 1994 – Joanie Madden: Whistle on the Wind – Green Linnet CD
  • 1999 – Cherish the Ladies: At Home – RCA CD
  • 2000 – The Boys Won't Leave the Girls Alone – Windham Hill CD
  • 2002 – Danú: All Things Considered – Shanachie CD

Clancy Brothers & Tommy Makem[edit]

Tradition Records

Columbia Records

  • A Spontaneous Performance Recording (1961)
  • Hearty and Hellish! A Live Nightclub Performance (1962)
  • The Boys Won't Leave the Girls Alone (1962) – 2 stereo issues (one includes alternate mixes)

*the last two albums were issued on now out of print Shanachie CDs

  • In Person at Carnegie Hall (1963) – also on Columbia CD
  • The First Hurrah! (1964)
  • Recorded LIVE in Ireland (1965)
  • Isn't It Grand, Boys (1966)
  • Freedom's Sons (1966)
  • In Concert (1967) – also on Columbia CD
  • The Irish Uprising (1967)
  • Home, Boys, Home (1968)
  • Sing of the Sea (1968)
  • The Bold Fenian Men (1969)
  • Reunion (1984) – Released on Blackbird LP/Shanachie CD
  • Luck Of The Irish – Columbia/Sony compilation. Contains 1 new song (Wars Of Germany) and 3 new performances of previously released songs: (Home Boys Home, The Old Orange Flute and They're Moving Father's Grave To Build A Sewer) (1992)
  • Bob Dylan 30th Anniversary Concert Celebration (1992)
  • Irish Drinking Songs (1993) – contains unreleased material from the Carnegie Hall album
  • Ain't it Grand: A Collection of Unissued Gems (1995) – unreleased material from the 1960s era

The Clancy Brothers (Liam, Tom, Pat, Bobby)[edit]

  • Christmas – Columbia LP/CD (1969)
  • Flowers in the Valley – Columbia LP (1970)

Audio Fidelity Records

  • Welcome to Our House (1970)

Lou Killen, Paddy, Liam, Tom Clancy[edit]

Audio Fidelity Records

  • Show Me The Way (1972)
  • Save the Land! (1972)
  • Live on St. Patrick's Day (1973)

Vanguard Records

  • Clancy Brothers Greatest Hits (1973) – Vanguard LP/CD

*This was reissued as 'Best of the Vanguard Years' with bonus material from the 1982 Live! album with Bobby Clancy and Robbie O'Connell.

Liam Clancy and Tommy Makem[edit]

Blackbird and Shanachie Records

  • Tommy Makem and Liam Clancy (1976)
  • The Makem & Clancy Concert (1977)
  • Two for the Early Dew (1978)
  • The Makem and Clancy Collection (1980) – contains previously released material and singles
  • Live At The National Concert Hall (1983)
  • We've Come A Long Way (1986)

Bob Dylan[edit]

  • The 30th Anniversary Concert Celebration (Pat, Liam & Bobby Clancy sing "When The Ship Comes In" with Tommy Makem and Robbie O'Connell)

The Clancy Brothers (Tom, Pat, Bobby) and Robbie O'Connell[edit]

  • Mini CD (3 inch disc)

The Clancy Brothers (Liam, Pat, Bobby) and Robbie O'Connell[edit]

  • Older But No Wiser – Vanguard (1995)

Clancy, Evans, and Doherty[edit]

  • 1996 – Shine on Brighter – Popular CD

Clancy, O'Connell & Clancy[edit]

Helvic Records

  • Clancy, O'Connell & Clancy – (1997)
  • The Wild And Wasteful Ocean – (1998)

Filmography[edit]

  • 1984 – The Story of the Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem – Shanchie
  • 1984 – Reunion Concert: Belfast – Shanachie
  • circa 1985 – Pete Seeger's Rainbow Quest (1965) – Central Sun / Shanachie (reissue)
  • 1997 – Farewell to Ireland – Pinnacle Vision
  • 2007 – Yes...Those Were the Days: Liam Clancy – Live at the Olympia, Dublin – unknown distributor

*originally released in 1992 as "In Close Up: Volumes 1 and 2"

  • 2007 – The Best of 'Hootenanny' – Shout!
  • 2009 – The Yellow Bittern: The life and times of Liam Clancy

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Grainne Cunningham and Louise Hogan (5 December 2009). "World mourns passing of an inspirational folk legend". Irish Independent. Retrieved 5 December 2009. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s "Last survivor of legendary Clancy Brothers with special voice for a ballad". The Irish Times. 5 December 2009. Retrieved 5 December 2009. "The group, described by Gay Byrne as the “most famous four Irishmen in the world”, recorded 55 albums which sold in their millions around the world." (subscription required)
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m "Liam Clancy dies aged 74". RTÉ News and Current Affairs. 4 December 2009. Retrieved 4 December 2009. 
  4. ^ a b c Siobhán Long (5 December 2009). "Last Clancy brother relished being emotionally trapped by a song". The Irish Times. Retrieved 5 December 2009. "The youngest of the Clancy brothers, he grew up in Carrick-on-Suir, where he learned the words of his first song, The Croppy Boy. [...] Liam was widely acknowledged as the strongest singer in the group." 
  5. ^ a b c d e f Ronan McGreevey (4 December 2009). "Singer Liam Clancy dies aged 74". The Irish Times. Retrieved 4 December 2009. 
  6. ^ "Irish folk legend Liam Clancy dies aged 74". NME. 5 December 2009. Retrieved 5 December 2009. 
  7. ^ a b c "Clancy's legacy secured". The Irish Times. 8 December 2009. Retrieved 12 December 2009. "Clancy’s journey from Carrick-on-Suir to the place he called “the island for people escaped from repressed backgrounds”, Greenwich village in New York, and into the limelight of that watershed appearance on the Ed Sullivan television show in the 1960s is indeed a remarkable story. Finding himself in the vanguard of the folk revival — on both sides of the Atlantic — was the epitome of good fortune." 
  8. ^ a b "The Yellow Bittern: The life and times of Liam Clancy". The Irish Times. 11 September 2009. Retrieved 12 December 2009. "TO BE 74 years old is no longer to be ancient. Yet Liam Clancy, sole remaining member of The Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem, does seem a little like a figure from the Pleistocene era. [...] Gilsenan has tracked down an impressive number of secondary sources, and his use of other performers' music is often inspired. It is, however, Liam Clancy's resonant voice — speaking, singing, laughing — and his remarkable gift for structuring a good story that allows the documentary to soar. The Yellow Bittern doesn't quite manage to make the Clancys hip, but it establishes the last upright member as a serious figure with a remarkable tale to tell. We owe it to him to listen." 
  9. ^ a b c "Liam Clancy Obituary". The Telegraph Online. December 6, 2009. Retrieved February 4, 2012. 
  10. ^ "MP3 Liam Clancy – Irish Troubadour". Retrieved 2009-09-22. 
  11. ^ a b "Irish folk singer Liam Clancy dies". BBC. 4 December 2009. Retrieved 5 December 2009. 
  12. ^ a b The Yellow Bittern: The Life and Times of Liam Clancy
  13. ^ "Irish balladeer Liam Clancy dies at 74". CBC News. 5 December 2009. Retrieved 5 December 2009. 
  14. ^ "Our House" produced by RTE, final episode of series 1, first broadcast on 8 December 1995 and presented by Duncan Stewart.
  15. ^ John Boland (5 December 2009). "One extraordinary storyteller with a real passion for life". Irish Independent. Retrieved 5 December 2009. 
  16. ^ a b c Ronan McGreevey (5 December 2009). "Last of the Clancy brothers dies". The Irish Times. Retrieved 5 December 2009. 
  17. ^ a b c "Tributes paid to Liam Clancy". RTÉ. 4 December 2009. Retrieved 4 December 2009. 
  18. ^ Conall O Fátharta (5 December 2009). "Folk singer Liam Clancy dies, aged 74". Irish Examiner. Retrieved 5 December 2009. 
  19. ^ Emma Rose Johnson (5 December 2009). "Liam Clancy's death echoes on Boston's Irish music scene". The Boston Globe. Retrieved 5 December 2009. 
  20. ^ David Hinckley (8 December 2009). "Éire-waves hum with tributes to Irish-music ambassador Liam Clancy". New York Daily News. Retrieved 18 December 2009. 
  21. ^ Michael Lavery (5 December 2009). "Music world mourns Liam Clancy". Evening Herald. Retrieved 5 December 2009. 
  22. ^ "Late Late Show guests announced". RTÉ. 4 December 2009. Retrieved 4 December 2009. 
  23. ^ a b "Hundreds attend Clancy funeral". RTÉ News and Current Affairs. 7 December 2009. Retrieved 7 December 2009. 

External links[edit]