Friday, December 11, 2015

Luke Kelly truly was a troubadour of the downtrodden.

On the Dubliners, of whom I remain a tremendous fan these many years later ...

The American roots magazine Dirty Linen, contrasting the Dubliners and the Clancy brothers who emerged around the same time, wrote: "Whereas the Clancys were well-scrubbed returned Yanks from rural Tipperary, decked out in matching white Aran sweaters, the Dubliners were hard-drinking backstreet Dublin scrappers with unkempt hair and bushy beards, whose gigs seemed to happen by accident between fistfights."

As an entity and institution, the Dubliners lasted a half-century, finally disbanding in 2012 after the banjoist and last original band member Barney McKenna died. Lineups changed, and the entertainment value never wavered, but in musical and cultural contexts, the salad days were 1962 - 1984.

During the first two decades of the band's existence, Ronnie Drew and Luke Kelly were its Lennon/McCartney or Jagger/Richards -- not in a songwriting sense, as the group performed the songs of others, but in terms of central focus.

Drew died in 2008, and the Irish Times explained his unique contribution to the Dubliners in its eulogy. Thirty years after Kelly's premature death, the Irish Post published a remembrance,explaining the  significance of the phrase I've chosen to title this posting.

A balladeer, musician and political activist, Kelly’s ability to sing ‘his heart out’ with ‘perfect diction’ in the words of Bono and the late Ronnie Drew bear testimony to the gift of his irreplaceable voice to stir and move the most hardened of souls with song and sentiment ...

... Luke often sang of the poor, the oppressed, the worker, the lover or the rebel – the realities of his own life and upbringing enlivened and gave weight to his songs and the emotional way in which he sang them. And his own childhood and youth was anything but privileged.

In this clip, Kelly sings one of his signature songs.

The documentary embedded and linked in this post was produced in 1999, but I only became aware of it earlier in the week. It is highly recommended.

Luke - A documentary on Luke Kelly (1999)

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