I’m not sure how the hell I missed this but I only found out yesterday of the death of Liam Clancy, the wonderful ballad singer, storyteller and along with his brothers and Tommy Makem, one of the true giants of Irish music.
There is also a fine article on the rocksbackpages blog that details the recent release of an expanded At Carnegie Hall concert recording, one of the seminal works of the folk revival in both Ireland and America, as well as the recent release of the documentary The Yellow Bittern, which from the trailer looks like a fabulous take on the odyssey of Liam and his comrades, from the Ireland of the fifties to the glittering Oz of New York at a time of promise and cultural and political awakening.
So what’s left to say? Two things- I was inspired to listen to the wonderful solo album Liam Clancy, first issued in 1965 by folk label Vanguard, which I hadn’t listened to in a while. Dig it out if you have it, seek it out if you don’t. It remains a timeless piece of work, reminding me that the nature of the music Liam sang at it’s best, transcends all boundaries of time and space and geography and is truly world music, long before that term was ever coined by the marketers and the (M)ad-men.
The other is that I thought on Liam’s words in his biography- “It is difficult to imagine now how innocent a twenty-year-old boy could be in a small town in Ireland in the fifties, but I had one foot in the twentieth century, the other in the Middle Ages.” That idea of living on the cusp of seismic change, as Liam did, led me to this from Egan O’Rahilly, the great 18th poet and a Munster man like Liam, a man who bestrode the tumultuous end of the old Gaelic order and the coming of an alien culture. I thought of his lament for his own time of dying, later stolen by Yeats (stealing from the best is one thing but when the best steals from you, that’s something!)
Now I shall cease, death comes, and I must not delay
By Laune and Laine and Lee, diminished of their pride.
I shall go after the heroes, aye, into the clay—
My fathers followed theirs before Christ was crucified
Here’s Liam with the last word…..