(Photo at right by Jason DeFillippo from Milwaukee Irish Fest 2005)
Pretty much every obituary for Liam Clancy, last of the renowned Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem outfit, will tell you that he passed away on Friday, December 4th, at the age of 74. They’ll repeat this quote by Bob Dylan, a lifelong friend who was strongly influenced by him, his brothers, and Tommy Makem in the ’60s Greenwich Village folk scene:
“I never heard a singer as good as Liam ever. He was just the best ballad singer I’d ever heard in my life, and still is, probably.”
The obituaries will lay out the facts of his life, his surviving family, and all of that. For this information, I recommend the Irish Times’ writeup. (Since the time of this writing, Liam Clancy’s Irish Times obituary can only be reached online by subscription. An alternative can be found at [oddly enough] the Los Angeles Times.)
I like to remember him from his performances I was lucky enough to enjoy on a trip to the Milwaukee Irish Fest in 2005, and a couple of Irish music cruises between then and now. Full of life and passion for the stage he conveyed in a way that captivated audiences of any size, he could command a room from tears one minute to laughter in the next with only his voice and whatever instrument he chose to brandish. That voice! That energy! Well, have a look and listen for yourself.
And Liam Clancy is about the only performer I can think of who could pull off opening a show with Eric Bogle’s And the Band Played Waltzing Matilda.
Rest in peace, Liam. You were the last of a kind. I raise a parting glass to your memory, and I’ll keep telling ’em about you until I, myself, depart.