Sunday, December 6, 2009

"I Never Will Play the Wild Rover No More" - RIP Liam

I learned today the passing of Liam Clancy, the last surviving member of the groups, "Clancy Brothers" and "The Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem".

Liam died on Friday 4 December in Ireland from a form of cancer. He was 74 years old.

My grandfather had once remarked that the worst part of getting old was that your mind kept expecting your body to do things that it no longer could. He was usually correct, so the second worst part of getting old must be seeing others that mean much to you moving on. So it is with Liam. Tommy Makem passed in 2007, so the "Clancy Brothers" and the "Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem" are no longer physically with us. Fortunately their music lives on. Their music is available on vinyl, CDs, and MP3. Some of their performances can be viewed on the Internet via You-Tube. We are fortunate to be able to enjoy and cherish such a rich heritage that they have given us.

I first was introduced to the Clancy Brothers when I was in Junior High School. My father had given me a small transistor radio that I would listen to "Folk Singers New York" hosted by Rambling Jack Elliott. It was in the early to mid 1960s with wonderful folk singers such as Joan Baez, Bob Dylan, Pete Seeger, Phil Ochs, Tim Hardin, as well as groups like the Clancy Brothers introducing a whole new world of struggle, hardships, and oppression to anyone who would listen. The new songs of protest meddled quite freely as well as effectively with the old traditional songs from long ago.

I particularly enjoyed the rowdy songs of the Clancy Brothers. I was drawn to the Irish songs of rebellion and drinking perhaps not unexpectedly for a boy in the midst of puberty.

One of the best concerts that I ever attended was in 1978. I was living and working in Northern Alberta - 800 miles north of the US border. Fort McMurray was a boom town in those days and just as wild. Winters got down to -40F which is the same as -40C. There were 30 frost free days a year up there. There was not much for entertainment at the time. One spring night, we drove up the hill from the lower town where we lived to attend a concert at the school. Liam Clancy and Tommy Makem were performing. The venue was very simple - a school cafeteria with portable metal chairs. The concert was just these two fantastic musicians and singers along with their instruments. There were no backup singers, lighting or even amplified sound. It was very intimate with perhaps 100 people in the audience. They performed all the Irish folk standards and conversed freely with the audience. At that time, Liam Clancy was living in Calgary and had an award winning television series on Canadian TV. They sang with such energy, passion, and emotion that it was difficult to consider it as a formal concert rather than a jam session with life long friends.

Years later, when I was living in the San Francisco Bay Area, there was a concert at UC-Berkeley - "The Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem in Reunion". Naturally I attended the concert and thoroughly enjoyed it. I consider myself fortunate to have witnessed the talent of these famous performers. Liam's ballads were as poignant as ever.

Now they are all gone. Listening to them on my MP3 player will not be the same from now on. I will get used to the fact that they have moved on and I will remind myself that the world was enriched by their music which will endure. It is still sad that Liam will not be performing anew "I Never Will Play th Wild Rover No More"

Rest In Peace, Liam.

1 comment:

  1. Hello from Ringsend, Dublin. Brother, you should listen to Planxty and the Bothy Band too. God bless. Matty