Mary Coughlan (singer)

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Mary Coughlan
Background information
Birth name Mary Doherty
Born (1956-05-05) 5 May 1956 (age 60)
County Galway, Ireland
Genres Jazz
Occupation(s) Singer
Years active 1984–present
Labels Tradition & Moderne, Rubyworks Records
Website Official site

Mary Coughlan (born 5 May 1956, County Galway)[1] is an Irish jazz and folk singer and actress.[2] She has received great acclamation in her native country, for her emotional and heartfelt jazzy musical renditions.[3]


Mary Coughlan was born in County Galway, Ireland (her father was a soldier from County Donegal). She was the eldest of five and had endured a very erratic youth. She left convent school and started drinking alcohol and taking drugs at just 15. At this age she spent time in a mental hospital. After time in hospital and a belated graduation, Coughlan decided to leave home. In the mid-1970s, she moved to London, UK, where she married Fintan Coughlan and had three children. However, in 1981, she left her husband and took custody of her children. In 1984, Mary Coughlan moved back to Ireland, to her hometown of Galway. It was on her return to Ireland, when she started to perform in public, and soon was noticed by Dutch musician and producer Erik Visser.[2]

Musical career[edit]

Vlado Kreslin and Mary Coughlan

Visser, whose band Flairck were very popular in Europe at the time, helped Coughlan to record her first album, Tired and emotional. Visser would go on to become her long-term collaborator. The album sold an unexpected 100,000 copies in Ireland, partly because of a memorable appearance on The Late Late Show. Despite her ongoing personal problems, Coughlan continued to reap praise for her recording output on WEA. On Under the Influence (1987) she revived the 1948 Peggy Lee hit "Don't Smoke in Bed'’and the Billie Holiday ballad "Good Morning Heartache", as well as Jimmy McCarthy's "Ride On", which reached number 5 on the Irish pop charts in 1987. 1988 was another successful year for Coughlan, she made her acting debut in Neil Jordan's High Spirits. Despite her success, Coughlan lost her record contract with Warner Music Group.

However, in 1990, she signed up with East West Records and released her third album Uncertain Pleasures , recorded in the UK and produced by Peter Glenister, former musical director for Terence Trent D'Arby. It included new compositions by Mark Nevin (Fairground Attraction) and Bob Geldof as well as covers of the Rolling Stones' "Mother's Little Helper" and Elvis Presley's "Heartbreak Hotel." After receiving treatment for her personal problems, it seemed as though Coughlan had landed on her two feet once again. Sentimental Killer (1992) and Love for Sale (1993) were received well. In 1994, Coughlan lent her vocals to the hugely popular A Woman's Heart Vol.2 album, along with the likes of Mary Black and Dolores Keane. Coughlan released her first live album, Live in Galway, and released another studio album in 1997, After the Fall, which became her American debut.

In June 2000, Coughlan took another turn in her career when she presented a series of elaborate multimedia shows in Dublin and in London celebrating Billie Holiday, a singer whose life story had parallels to Coughlan's own. The best of these shows was collected on the Mary Coughlan Sings Billie Holiday album. A new studio album was released the following April 2001, entitled Long Honeymoon, and another in 2002, Red Blues. The 2000s saw the release of numerous Coughlan compilation albums and her appearance on the RTÉ reality charity show, Celebrity Farm.[4] The release of her most recent offering in 2008, The House of Ill Repute, sparked reviews that suggested it was her best yet.[5] She has also taken part in the Sanctuary album with Moya Brennan.

Personal life[edit]

After her success in the mid-1980s with Tired and Emotional, Coughlan was dealing with serious mis-management in relation to her career. It was so bad that she ended up losing her car, her house and her recording contract with WEA. As a result, she started to drink very regularly and was hospitalised over 30 times. Despite minor success with her acting and her music during this period, the public was more interested in her personal turmoil. Owing to treatment she received, she recovered in 1994 and found a new partner, Frank Bonadio, with whom she had two more children, bringing her total to five.[6] A public spat with singer Sinéad O'Connor ensued over Bonadio's affections.[7]

Coughlan's public stance concerning the topics of abortion, and the role of women in Irish society in general, are marked by brutal honesty and frank criticism.[8]


  • Tired and Emotional, Mystery Records, 1985
  • Under the Influence, Mystery Records, 1987
  • Uncertain Pleasures, East West 1990
  • Sentimental Killer, East West 1992
  • Love for Sale, Demon 1993
  • Love Me or Leave Me: The Best of Mary Coughlan, Warner Music 1994
  • Live in Galway, Big Cat 1995
  • After the Fall, Big Cat/V2 1997
  • Long Honeymoon, Evangeline 1999
  • Mary Coughlan Sings Billie Holiday, Evangeline 2000
  • Red Blues, Cadiz/Pinnacle, 2002
  • Live at the Basement, Hail Mary Records, 2003
  • The Best, Hail Mary Records, 2004
  • The House of Ill Repute, Rubyworks, 2008
  • The Whole Affair – The Very Best of, Hail Mary Records 2012
  • Scars on the Calendar, Hail Mary Records 2015

Also featuring on:

  • Sanctuary, Various Artists, Independent 2008
  • Emotions, Various Artists, Compact Disc Club 2006


  1. ^ "Mary Coughlan". Retrieved 18 November 2008. 
  2. ^ a b Sullivan, Maireid. "An Interview with Mary Coughlan". Alternate Music Press. Retrieved 18 November 2008. 
  3. ^ "Mary Coughlan Filmography". Fandango. Retrieved 18 November 2008. 
  4. ^ "Mary Coughlan is third off Celeb Farm". RTÉ. 10 September 2003. Retrieved 18 November 2008. 
  5. ^ "Interview with Mary Coughlan". 17 October 2008. Retrieved 18 November 2008. 
  6. ^ "Mary Coughlan Biography". Deelside. Retrieved 18 November 2008. 
  7. ^ Harris, Anne (2 April 2006). "Why Sinead O'Connor sent those toxic texts to Mary Coughlan". Irish Independent. 
  8. ^ "Interview with Mary Coughlan". Retrieved 18 November 2008. 

External links[edit]