Archiver > IRISH-IN-CHICAGO > 2007-08 > 1186092112

From: Nan Brennan <>
Subject: [IRISH-IN-CHICAGO] Tommy Makem
Date: Thu, 2 Aug 2007 17:01:52 -0500

I remember first seeing Tommy Makem solo at the Tom McAuley's Emerald
Isle on Rush St in the early 70s.

DOVER, New Hampshire (AP) _ Irish singer, songwriter and storyteller
Tommy Makem, who teamed with the Clancy Brothers to become stars
during the folk music boom, has died of cancer. He was 74.

Makem died Wednesday in Dover, New Hampshire, where he lived for many
years, his son Conor said Thursday. He had battled lung cancer.

The Irish-born Makem, who came to America in the 1950s to seek work
as an actor, grew to international fame while performing with the
band The Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem. The brothers, also from
Ireland, were Tom, Liam and Paddy Clancy.

Armed with his banjo, tinwhistle, poetry, stagecraft and his baritone
voice, Makem helped spread stories and songs of Irish culture around
the world.

He brought audiences to tears with ''Four Green Fields,'' about a
woman whose sons died trying to prevent strangers from taking her
fields. Other songs included ''Gentle Annie'' and ''Red Is the Rose.''

''He just had the knack of making an audience laugh or cry... holding
them in his hands,'' Liam Clancy told RTE Radio in Dublin, Ireland.

The New York Times wrote in 1967 that the four singers ''have become
unofficial national minstrels of Eire, Raggedy-Andy musical
ambassadors, an eight-legged, ambulatory chamber of commerce for the
green isle they love so well. ... At one point, Irish teenagers were
paying as much homage to them as to the Beatles.''

After touring for about nine years as The Clancy Brothers and Tommy
Makem, he struck out on his own, but he remained friends with the
brothers. Tom Clancy died in 1990 and Paddy in 1998.

Back in the 1950s, Makem and his friends, saw their first few albums
_ ''The Rising of the Moon'' and a collection of drinking songs _ as
a fluke.

In a 1994 Associated Press interview, Makem recalled he was
astonished when the Gate of Horn in Chicago offered him more money to
sing for a week than he was getting for acting with a repertory company.

''I was the opening act for Josh White. I felt sort of silly, coming
out and singing unaccompanied, and then Josh coming out and almost
making the guitar talk,'' he said.

As their fame spread, they appeared on ''The Ed Sullivan Show'' and
other major TV shows, and headlined concerts at Carnegie Hall and
London's Royal Albert Hall.

A young Bob Dylan was one of the folksingers who got to know Makem
and the Clancys during the early 1960s.

''Topical songs weren't protest songs ...,'' Dylan wrote in his
memoir ''Chronicles Volume One.'' ''What I was hearing pretty
regularly, though, were rebellion songs, and those really moved me.
The Clancy Brothers _ Tom, Paddy and Liam _ and their buddy Tommy
Makem sang them all the time.''

In 1992, Makem and the Clancys were among the stars performing in a
gala tribute to Dylan at New York's Madison Square Garden. Eric
Clapton, George Harrison, Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson, Tracy Chapman
and Dylan himself also took part.

President Mary McAleese of Ireland led the tributes to Makem after
his death. ''Always the consummate musician, he was also a superb
ambassador for the country, and one of whom we will always be
proud,'' McAleese said.

Even while battling cancer, he was maintaining a performance
schedule, and he visited Belfast last month to receive an honorary
degree and returned to his native Armagh.

His son Conor accompanied Makem on the Ireland trip.

''He had very much wanted to get over there,'' Makem said. ''I think
he knew it might have been his last time over.''

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