Neil Hannon

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Neil Hannon
Hannon performing in 2007
Hannon performing in 2007
Background information
Born (1970-11-07) 7 November 1970 (age 52)
Derry, Northern Ireland
  • Vocals
  • guitar
  • piano
  • keyboards
Years active1986-present

Edward Neil Anthony Hannon (born 7 November 1970)[1] is a Northern Irish singer and songwriter. He is the creator and front man of the chamber pop group The Divine Comedy, and is the band's sole constant member. Hannon wrote the theme tunes for the television sitcoms Father Ted and The IT Crowd.

Early life and education[edit]

Hannon was born in Derry, Northern Ireland, the son of Brian Hannon, a Church of Ireland minister in the Diocese of Derry and Raphoe and later Bishop of Clogher.[2] He spent some of his youth in Fivemiletown before moving with his family to Enniskillen, in County Fermanagh, in 1982.[3] While there, he attended Portora Royal School.[4]

Hannon enjoyed synthesizer-based music as a youngster; he has identified the Human League and Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark (OMD) as "the first music that really excited [him]". In the late 1980s he developed a fondness of the electric guitar, becoming an "indie kid".[5]


Hannon is founder and mainstay of The Divine Comedy, a band which achieved their biggest commercial success in the mid- to late-1990s with the albums Casanova (1996), A Short Album About Love (1997), and Fin de Siècle (1998). Hannon continues to release albums under The Divine Comedy name, the most recent being Office Politics (2019). In 2000 he and Joby Talbot contributed four tracks for Ute Lemper's collaboration album, Punishing Kiss.

In 2004 he played alongside the Ulster Orchestra for the opening event of the Belfast Festival at Queen's. In 2005, he contributed vocals to his long-time collaborator Joby Talbot's soundtrack for the movie version of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.

In 2006 it was announced that Hannon was to lend his vocal ability to the Doctor Who soundtrack CD release, recording two songs – "Love Don't Roam" for the 2006 Christmas special, "The Runaway Bride", and a new version of "Song For Ten", originally used in 2005's "The Christmas Invasion". On 12 January 2007, The Guardian website's "Media Monkey" diary column reported that Doctor Who fans from the discussion forum on the fan website Outpost Gallifrey were attempting to organise mass downloads of the Hannon-sung "Love Don't Roam", which was available as a single release on the UK iTunes Store. This was in order to attempt to exploit the new UK Singles Chart download rules, and get the song featured in the Top 40 releases.[6]

The same year Hannon added his writing and vocal talents to the Air album Pocket Symphony, released in the United States on 6 March 2007. He is featured on the track "Somewhere Between Waking and Sleeping", for which he wrote the lyrics. This song had been originally written for and sung by Charlotte Gainsbourg on her album, 5:55. Though it was not included in its 2006 European release, it was added as a bonus track for its American release on 24 April 2007.[7]

Hannon won the 2007 Choice Music Prize for his 2006 album, Victory for the Comic Muse.[8] It was announced the following day that he had left EMI by 'mutual consent'.[citation needed] In 2015 he won the 2015 Legend Award from the Oh Yeah organisation in Belfast.[9]

When the band Keane played at the O2 Arena in London in July, "A Bad Dream" was introduced by Hannon. He introduced it by reading the poem "An Irish Airman Foresees His Death" by W. B. Yeats, upon which the song is based.[citation needed]

He is credited with composing the theme music for the sitcoms Father Ted and The IT Crowd, the former theme composed for the show and later reworked into "Songs of Love", a track on The Divine Comedy's breakthrough album Casanova.[10] Both shows were created or co-created by Graham Linehan. For the Father Ted episode, "A Song for Europe", Hannon co-wrote and sang "My Lovely Horse", the song Ted and Dougal enter in Eurosong (a parody of the Eurovision Song Contest). For the same episode, Hannon wrote "The Miracle Is Mine", the 'typical' Eurovision ballad sung by Ted's nemesis, Father Dick Byrne. A dream sequence in the episode shows Ted and Dougal in the song's pop video, with Hannon providing vocals. Hannon also wrote and performed "My Lovely Mayo Mammy", sung by Eoin McLove in the episode "Night of the Nearly Dead", and wrote "Big Men in Frocks", sung by Niamh Connolly in "Rock-a-Hula Ted". When a raffle is held in order to raise funds to repair the roof of the parochial house, the Kraftwerk-esque quartet of priests enlisted to perform play an electronic piece of music composed and performed by him. Both of the advertisements for telephone numbers; in The IT Crowd (the new emergency number) and Father Ted (Priest Chatback) have jingles composed by Hannon. In the episode "A Christmassy Ted", his name is mentioned by Mrs Doyle while she attempts to guess that of the mysterious guest.

Hannon has also collaborated with Thomas Walsh, from the Irish band Pugwash, to create a cricket-themed pop album under the name The Duckworth Lewis Method. The first single, "The Age of Revolution", was released in June 2009, and a full-length album released the week after.[11][12] The group's second album, Sticky Wickets, came out in 2013.

Hannon contributed to a musical version of Swallows and Amazons, writing the music while Helen Edmundson wrote the book and lyrics, which premiered in December 2010 at the Bristol Old Vic.[13] A new Divine Comedy album, Bang Goes the Knighthood, was released in May 2010.[14]

In April 2012 Hannon's first opera commission, Sevastopol,[15] was performed by the Royal Opera House. It was part of a program called OperaShots, which invites musicians not typically working within the opera medium to create an opera. Sevastopol was based upon Leo Tolstoy's Sevastopol Sketches. Hannon's second opera (book by Frank Alva Buecheler, English by Tim Clarke) for which he wrote music, In May, premiered in May 2013 in Lancaster and was shown in 2014 with overwhelming success e.g. in Glasgow and Brighton.

The world premiere of To Our Fathers in Distress, in the words of the composer "a kind of oratorio" for chorus, strings and organ, was performed on 22 March 2014 at the Royal Festival Hall in London. It was inspired by Hannon's father, the Rt Rev Brian Hannon, who had suffered from Alzheimer's disease before his death in 2022.[16]

Personal life[edit]

Since 2009, Hannon's partner is Irish musician Cathy Davey. The couple live in County Kildare. He was previously married to Orla Little, with whom he has a daughter, Willow Hannon.[17][18][19] With Davey, Hannon is a patron of the Irish animal charity My Lovely Horse Rescue, named after the Father Ted Eurovision song for which he wrote the music.[20][21]

Politically, Hannon describes himself as being "a thoroughly leftie, Guardian-reading chap, but of the champagne socialist variety".[22]


The Divine Comedy[edit]

Other contributions[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "The Divine Comedy Facebook". Facebook. 7 November 2016. Archived from the original on 26 February 2022. Retrieved 8 November 2019.
  2. ^ Purden, Richard (30 September 2016). "Neil Hannon: The hardest thing for me is to simplify". The Irish News. Retrieved 26 May 2018.
  3. ^ "The Church of Ireland Diocesan Press Release". 29 October 2003.
  4. ^ "A Short Site". Archived from the original on 23 September 2015.
  5. ^ Cummings, Damien (18 October 2019). "'Being an oddball is part of it': The Divine Comedy's Neil Hannon". Exberliner. Retrieved 20 March 2021.
  6. ^ "Who's in the pop charts?". Guardian Unlimited. 12 January 2007. Retrieved 13 January 2007.
  7. ^ 5:55#Release history
  8. ^ "Choice Music Prize". RTÉ.ie. Archived from the original on 4 November 2012.
  9. ^ "Singer Neil Hannon says his life is anything but a rock 'n' roll cliche". Belfast Telegraph. 12 November 2015. Retrieved 25 July 2019.
  10. ^ "Father Ted Theme". Archived from the original on 6 November 2013. Retrieved 10 March 2013.
  11. ^ "interview with The Duckworth Lewis Method". BBC News. 21 May 2009. Retrieved 11 June 2009.
  12. ^ "Interview about cricket and music". BBC News. 21 May 2009. Retrieved 11 June 2009.
  13. ^ "Neil Hannon on Swallows and Amazons: Is theatre the new rock and roll?". The Telegraph. 30 November 2011. Archived from the original on 12 January 2022. Retrieved 26 October 2015.
  14. ^ "Bang Goes the Knighthood - the Divine Comedy | Songs, Reviews, Credits | AllMusic". AllMusic.
  15. ^ "Neil Hannon's Sevastopol – OperaShots 2012". 10 April 2012. Retrieved 23 August 2012.
  16. ^ Neil Hannon (10 March 2014). "Neil Hannon: my father's Alzheimer's was the inspiration behind To Our Fathers in Distress | Music". The Guardian. Retrieved 13 September 2015.
  17. ^ "Neil Hannon: 'I was born old. I was an old man trapped in a young man's body' | Music". The Guardian. 15 October 2014. Retrieved 13 September 2015.
  18. ^ "Simply Divine". Belfast Telegraph. 5 May 2010.
  19. ^ Una Brankin (12 November 2015). "Singer Neil Hannon says his life is anything but a rock 'n' roll cliche". Belfast Telegraph.
  20. ^ Gemosi (28 January 2014). "Gemosi to support My Lovely Horse Rescue". Retrieved 5 September 2016.
  21. ^ Bairbre Power; Kirsty Blake Knox (30 November 2014). "The Diary: Christmas party season is upon us". Retrieved 5 September 2016. My Lovely Horse Rescue, a charity special to the hearts of singers Cathy Davey and Neil Hannon
  22. ^ Mick Heaney (25 May 2019). "Neil Hannon: 'It's like whistling a happy tune as the ship goes down'". Retrieved 27 March 2021.
  23. ^ "Celebrating the Divine Comedy 30th Anniversary wuth Nine Remastered Albums". Abbey Road Studios. Retrieved 17 October 2020.
  24. ^ "Spotlight on the Boxset". The Divine Comedy. Retrieved 17 October 2020.

External links[edit]