LEGENDARY folk singer Liam Clancy, once described by Bob Dylan as the “greatest ballad singer” he ever heard, died yesterday at the age of 74.
Mr Clancy, who found fame as a member of the Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem, died in the Bon Secours Hospital in Cork after a long battle with pulmonary fibrosis. His brother Bobby died of the same disease in 2002.
Liam, who is survived by his wife Kim and their four children, was the youngest of the four Clancy brothers, with Paddy, Bobby and Tom all having passed away. Tommy Makem died two years ago.
Born in Carrick-on-Suir in Co Tipperary, he was the youngest of 11 children.
In 1956 he left Ireland to join his brothers in the United States, where they performed in the pubs and cafes of New York and met the young Bob Dylan. The group was launched to stardom after a record-breaking 16-minute performance on The Ed Sullivan Show in 1961.
Arts Minister Martin Cullen last night led tributes to Mr Clancy. “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,” he said.
Fine Gael Leader Enda Kenny said: “His death really does mark the end of an era. Liam’s contribution to Irish music and culture was simply outstanding.”
Filmmaker Alan Gilsenen, who made the documentary The Yellow Bittern about the life and times of Liam Clancy, added: “He and his brothers and Tommy reclaimed an enormous amount of folk songs for Ireland, reinterpreted them in terms of their experience in America, outselling the Beatles at one stage.”
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