.

Farewell to Tommy Makem (1932-2007)

August 2, 2007 4:54 PM ET

A pint for Tommy Makem (above, left), a giant of Irish music who blew up on the same early-Sixties Greenwich Village folk scene as his buddy Bob Dylan. A native of County Armagh, he emigrated to New York in 1955 and joined a rowdy gang of Irish singers, the Clancy Brothers. At clubs like the Village Gate and Folk City, the Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem sang tales of drinking, blackguarding, rebellion and drinking. They taught Dylan songs like "The Parting Glass" (which became "Restless Farewell") and "Brennan On The Moor" (which became "Rambling Gambling Willie"), but that's just the start -- Dylan raves about them in No Direction Home and Chronicles, describing Makem perfectly: "The singer always had a merry light in his eye, had to have it." They also taught Shane McGowan half his songs; check out the 1959 classic Come Fill Your Glass With Us. It's difficult to overstate Makemâ's importance to Irish-American pop culture over the past fifty years. Nobody will forget him (I know I won't, because my mom makes me sing "Bold Thady Quill" every year on her birthday). So as the old Irish funeral song says, "Let's not have a sniffle, let's have a bloody good cry." Here's a clip of Makem and the Clancys singing "The Little Beggarman" on Pete Seeger's TV show; Makem's the one standing up, singing lead and dancing a jig at the end. Dance on, Tommy.

To read the new issue of Rolling Stone online, plus the entire RS archive: Click Here

prev
Music Main Next
Daily Newsletter

Get the latest RS news in your inbox.

Sign up to receive the Rolling Stone newsletter and special offers from RS and its
marketing partners.

X

We may use your e-mail address to send you the newsletter and offers that may interest you, on behalf of Rolling Stone and its partners. For more information please read our Privacy Policy.

Song Stories

“American Girl”

Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers | 1976

It turns out that a single with "American" in its title--recorded on the Fourth of July during the nation's Bicentennial, no less--can actually sell better in Britain. Coupled with the Heartbreakers' flair for Byrds jangle and Animals hooks, though, is Tom Petty's native-Florida drawl that keeps this classic grounded at home. Petty dispelled rumors that the song was about a suicidal student, explaining that the inspiration came from when he was 25 and used to salute the highway traffic outside his apartment window. "It sounded like the ocean to me," he recalled. "That was my ocean. My Malibu. Where I heard the waves crash, but it was just the cars going by."

More Song Stories entries »
 
www.expandtheroom.com