Jimmy MacCarthy

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Jimmy MacCarthy
Born1953 (age 64–65)
Macroom, County Cork, Ireland
GenresFolk, Rock
Occupation(s)Singer, Songwriter
Years active1979 – 2003, 2008-present

James MacCarthy (born 1953) is an Irish singer-songwriter.

Early life and career[edit]

MacCarthy was born in Macroom, County Cork, Ireland to Ted MacCarthy (died 1998) and Betty MacCarthy (died 2009). He has 11 siblings. The family had a business distributing newspapers and magazines all over Munster. However the family soon lost their business from a combination of bad health and bad luck. Despite this Ted and Betty made sure that things would still be good for their children.

MacCarthy left school at 15 where he was unhappy, without an Inter Cert and became a stable boy at Vincent O'Brien's place in Ballydoyle, but after five years between Tipperary and Newmarket, Jimmy returned home to help his father whose bad heart had led to the end of the business. He then made a living out of singing at pubs, and was later busking in the streets of London and doing occasional concerts, opening for other singers' gigs in Ireland.

In 1995, MacCarthy bought a house in Wicklow, which was destroyed by a recent blaze along with other recording studios (outhouses) set up by MacCarthy.[1] MacCarthy now resides in Kilkenny in a house he bought in 2006.[2]

Between 2003 and 2008 MacCarthy took an extended hiatus from performing. Upon his return to the live scene MacCarthy played with a band consisting of Eleanor Healy (bass and vocals) and Martin Leahy (percussion and drums) to great acclaim. More recently he has performed solo at venues throughout Ireland.[3][4] Since he returned to the live scene MacCarthy has been performing new songs along with all the classics. In summer 2009 he made his first nationwide tour, doing gigs at big venues such as the National Concert Hall, the Cork Opera House and Galway Town Hall.

In addition MacCarthy has played smaller venues in locations of note, including Kenmare, County Kerry, the town known as "Neidín", in Irish, after which he named his classic hit "As I Leave Behind Neidín". Manager of the Carnegie Arts Centre, Deryn O'Callaghan has said that after remembering the town in one of his songs, Jimmy MacCarthy would have a warm welcome when playing the venue.[5]

Since 2013 MacCarthy continued to play gigs throughout the country, including small arts centres and larger venues such as the National Concert Hall in Dublin and Cork Opera House once again.


MacCarthy is best known as a songwriter. Composing since the late 1970s, his songs have been recorded by many Irish artists including Christy Moore, Mary Black, Finbar Wright, Maura O'Connell, the Corrs and Westlife. "Ride On", recorded by Christy Moore, is one of his best-known compositions. Moore also recorded MacCarthy's songs "Missing You", "Bright Blue Rose" and "Mystic Lipstick". Mary Black, Maura O'Connell and The Corrs have recorded MacCarthy's "No Frontiers", while Black has also recorded his songs "Katie", "Adam at the Window", "Diamond Days", "As I Leave Behind Neidín", "Shuffle of the Buckled" and "Another Day."[6] MacCarthy also co-wrote Westlife's "Angel's Wings." This track was meant to be a Christmas single for Westlife during that year[which?] but the band chose a different song. MacCarthy believes that if Westlife had released "Angel's Wings" as a single the chances were that it could have become a number one hit and that it would have been nice to have a song at the top of the UK charts.[7]

More recently MacCarthy's songs have been recorded by newer artists such as the Celtic Tenors,[8] Michelle Lally,[9] Marc Roberts,[10] and Tommy O'Sullivan.[11]


According to a discography site MacCarthy's music has been described as folky power-pop, but it can also be classed as folk-rock.[12] Prior to embarking on a lengthy career as a singer/songwriter in Ireland, MacCarthy released his first single "Miles of Eyes" in 1981 under Mulligan Records. The same year a second single was put out through the same label, which was titled "Like in the Movies". This was after being in a band called "Southpaw" with Declan Sinnott in the late 1970s.

A longtime fan of the Beatles, in October 1999 MacCarthy played at the National Concert Hall, Dublin as a special guest with the "fifth Beatle" George Martin. He performed a cover of the Beatles' song "She's Leaving Home".[13]

In his career MacCarthy has toured with De Dannan and worked with producers such as Donal Lunny and many more.[14]

Up to 2010, MacCarthy released four albums of his own. The Song of the Singing Horseman (1991), The Dreamer (1994), The Moment (2002) and Hey Ho Believe (2010). His debut album, The Song of the Singing Horseman has been described as having a "masterly blend of pop melodies, trad fiddles, Spanish guitars, country-and-western rhythms and chamber-music strings."[15] MacCarthy's third album, The Moment, features co-writers on five of its tracks, including a song written with Graham Lyle (the songwriter of Tina Turner's "What's Love Got to Do with It?"). More firmly a pop-rock album than his first two recordings, the music on The Moment is predominantly guitar and keyboard based.[6] MacCarthy's fourth album Hey Ho Believe, released on 25 October 2010 included other musicians such as Eoin O'Neill, Anto Drennan and Graham Henderson.[16][17]

Tribute Albums[edit]

As of 2017 there have been two tribute albums released celebrating the work of Jimmy MacCarthy, the first was a collection by popular artists that have recorded his songs and the second was by his long time friend Mary Black.

Warmer for the Spark[edit]

In 1998 MacCarthy released an album together with Tommy Fleming, Frances Black, Mary Black, Christy Moore, Maura O Connell and Mary Coughlan which they named Warmer for the Spark; the songs of Jimmy MacCarthy Volume One. MacCarthy wrote every song on this album and sang two of his own.[18]

Mary Black Sings Jimmy MacCarthy[edit]

In 2017 Mary Black released an album celebrating MacCarthy's work. This album includes the songs by MacCarthy Mary Black is known for such as 'No Frontiers', 'Katie' and 'Adam At The Window', classics never recorded by Black like 'Mystic Lipstick', a new song 'Love's Last Chance', and a live recording of Black and MacCarthy both singing 'As I Leave Behind Neidin'. MacCarthy was very pleased with Black's work on this album, particularly the new songs.[19]

Personal life[edit]

MacCarthy is not currently married or in a relationship and has no children.[20]

Freedom of Macroom[edit]

MacCarthy was awarded the keys of Macroom in April 2008 for his achievements in songwriting. He was only the third person to be awarded the freedom of the town. He was presented with the keys by mayor Pat O'Connell.[21]

Recent Work (2010–present)[edit]

Prior to the release of his newest album MacCarthy stated had over 100 new songs written.[2] The new album Hey-Ho Believe was released on 25 October 2010 and featured a new producer Donal Lunny.

Following the release of Hey-Ho Believe and a short promotional tour MacCarthy kept a low profile until April 2013 when he was inducted into the Irish Music Rights Organization (IMRO) Academy.

Although no new album has been announced MacCarthy has been debuting some new songs. One song titled 'Prophecy/Conspiracy?' has been performed on recent radio interviews.[22] Additionally a song MacCarthy wrote about his life growing up in Cork 'Roll On The Lee' has been released as a charity single for Enable Ireland. 1,000 copies of the single were given and is available from Enable Ireland shops and by mail order[23]


Singles include:

  • "Miles of Eyes", which has "Shuffle of the Buckled" on the B-side (Mulligan, 1981)
  • "Like in the Movies", which also included a B-Side "Cherry Blossom Blue" (Mulligan, 1981)
  • "Adam at the Window" with B-side "The Grip of Parallel" (Solid Records, 1987)
  • "Mystic Lipstick", taken from The Song of the Singing Horseman. Also included the songs "A Hard Man To Follow" and "On My Enchanted Sight". (Mulligan, 1991)
  • "Lorraine", taken from the album The Dreamer (Sony Music, 1994)
  • "My Singing Bird" taken from Warmer for the Spark (Dara Records, 1998) also had the song "The Mad Lady and Me"
  • "The Contender", which had "My Singing Bird" as a B-side (Ride on Records)
  • "The People of West Cork and Kerry", which had '"Sky Road" on the B-Side (Ride on Records)
  • "The Music of Love", taken from The Moment (Ride on Records, 2002)
  • "Hey Ho Believe", promotional track taken from the album of the same name. Currently unavailable as a physical single but used for airplay. Includes a B-side "Christian Telephone" (2010)
  • "Roll On The Lee", charity single for Enable Ireland (Ride On Records)

All the singles are now out of print, except for 'Roll On The Lee'.


  1. ^ "Blaze Destroys Songwriter's Former Home". 11 October 2010. Retrieved 14 October 2001.
  2. ^ a b "The singing Corkman is back on song". Independent. Andrea Smith. 31 May 2009. Retrieved 31 May 2009.
  3. ^ "Jimmy MacCarthy Returns". Hot Press. 2 April 2009. Retrieved 6 June 2009.
  4. ^ "Jimmy strikes a chord with fans". 5 June 2009. Retrieved 13 June 2009.[permanent dead link]
  5. ^ "Jimmy returns to play Neidín". The Kerryman. 1 July 2009. Retrieved 22 July 2009.
  6. ^ a b *{http://www.folkworld.de/24/e/maccarthy.html}
  7. ^ Kevin Mcguire (4 June 2009). "Jimmy MacCarthy at the Town Hall Theatre". Retrieved 1 July 2009.
  8. ^ "The Celtic Tenors Discography". 2009. Retrieved 17 June 2009.
  9. ^ "If This Be Love Michelle". Tara Music. 2008. Retrieved 17 June 2009.
  10. ^ "Chances of a lifetime for Galway-based artist". Galway Independent. 20 February 2008. Archived from the original on 21 August 2008. Retrieved 15 May 2009.
  11. ^ "Tommy O'Sullivan Discography". 2006. Retrieved 17 June 2009.
  12. ^ "Jimmy MacCarthy Discography".
  13. ^ Niamh Hooper (25 October 1999). "Review". Irish Independent. Retrieved 27 May 2009.
  14. ^ "The best way to tell his story is through his songs". 30 October 2002. Retrieved 15 June 2009.
  15. ^ Jimmy MacCarthy's History Archived 2 February 2008 at the Wayback Machine.
  16. ^ "Jimmy MacCarthy on Sinee Feb 16".
  17. ^ Naoise Coogan (19 February 2010). "Jimmy MacCarthy returns with upcoming gigs and a brand new album on the way". Retrieved 20 February 2010.
  18. ^ "Warmer For The Spark". 2018. Retrieved 7 January 2018.
  19. ^ "Mary Black Sings Jimmy MacCarthy". RTE. 2017. Retrieved 7 January 2018.
  20. ^ "All I Have Is Two Dogs And A Thousand Songs". TheIndependent. 2017. Retrieved 7 January 2018.
  21. ^ "Macroom Freedom". 2007. Archived from the original on 18 November 2007. Retrieved 13 June 2009.
  22. ^ "Jimmy MacCarthy on The John Murray Show 25/10/13".
  23. ^ "Supporting Enable Ireland Christmas". EnableIeland. 2015. Retrieved 7 January 2018.

External links[edit]