Jimmy MacCarthy

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Jimmy MacCarthy
Born 1953 (age 63–64)
Macroom, County Cork, Ireland
Genres Folk, Rock
Occupation(s) Singer, Songwriter
Years active 1979 – 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]


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."[3] 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.[4]


While his music has been described as folky power-pop[by whom?] it can also be classed as folk-rock. 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.[5]

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".[6]

In his career MacCarthy has toured with De Dannan and worked with producers such as Donal Lunny and many more.[7]

Up to 2002, MacCarthy released three albums of his own. The Song of the Singing Horseman (1991), The Dreamer (1994) and The Moment (2002). 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."[8] 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.[3] MacCarthy released his fourth album Hey Ho Believe on 25 October 2010.

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

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.[12]

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.[13]

Current work (2002-Present)[edit]

In 2007 a charity album named Tuesdays Child was released which included MacCarthy as well as Irish artists Westlife, Ronan Keating and Brian Kennedy. Jimmy MacCarthy's song "Wonder Child" was put on this album.

MacCarthy will also be co-writing songs on Marc Robert's upcoming fourth album.[14]

Returning performances (2008-Present)[edit]

MacCarthy returned to performing in 2008 initially with a band consisting of Eleanor Healy (bass and vocals) and Martin Leahy (percussion and drums) to great acclaim. More recently he has been performing solo at venues throughout Ireland.[15][16] He plans to perform new songs along with all of his classic hits. In the 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.

On the 4 of July, Jimmy played in Kenmare, County Kerry, which is the town known as "Neidín", in Irish, after which MacCarthy 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 will have a warm welcome when playing this venue.[17]

MacCarthy stated in an interview in 2009 that he felt more relaxed now in preparation for playing gigs in Ireland once again, had over 100 new songs written and planned to release a new album.[2] Hey-Ho Believe was released on 25 October 2010 and featured a new producer Donal Lunny. Other musicians that played on the album include Eoin O'Neill, Anto Drennan and Graham Henderson.[18][19]

After 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. Since then he has played several gigs throughout the country, which included small arts centres and larger venues such as the National Concert Hall in Dublin and Cork Opera House. On recent radio interviews,[20] performances he has debuted new songs, including one titled Prophecy/Conspiracy?.


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)

All the singles are now out of print.


  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. ^ a b *{http://www.folkworld.de/24/e/maccarthy.html}
  4. ^ Kevin Mcguire (4 June 2009). "Jimmy MacCarthy at the Town Hall Theatre". Retrieved 1 July 2009. 
  5. ^ "Jimmy MacCarthy Discography". 
  6. ^ Niamh Hooper (25 October 1999). "Review". Irish Independent. Retrieved 27 May 2009. 
  7. ^ "The best way to tell his story is through his songs". 30 October 2002. Retrieved 15 June 2009. 
  8. ^ Jimmy MacCarthy's History Archived 2 February 2008 at the Wayback Machine.
  9. ^ "The Celtic Tenors Discography". 2009. Retrieved 17 June 2009. 
  10. ^ "If This Be Love Michelle". Tara Music. 2008. Retrieved 17 June 2009. 
  11. ^ "Tommy O'Sullivan Discography". 2006. Retrieved 17 June 2009. 
  12. ^ "Warmer For The Spark" Check |url= value (help). Retrieved 2009.  Check date values in: |access-date= (help)[permanent dead link]
  13. ^ "Macroom Freedom". 2007. Archived from the original on 18 November 2007. Retrieved 13 June 2009. 
  14. ^ "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. 
  15. ^ "Jimmy MacCarthy Returns". Hot Press. 2 April 2009. Retrieved 6 June 2009. 
  16. ^ "Jimmy strikes a chord with fans". 5 June 2009. Retrieved 13 June 2009. [permanent dead link]
  17. ^ "Jimmy returns to play Neidín". The Kerryman. 1 July 2009. Retrieved 22 July 2009. 
  18. ^ "Jimmy MacCarthy on Sinee Feb 16". 
  19. ^ Naoise Coogan (19 February 2010). "Jimmy MacCarthy returns with upcoming gigs and a brand new album on the way". Retrieved 20 February 2010. 
  20. ^ "Jimmy MacCarthy on The John Murray Show 25/10/13". 

External links[edit]