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Farewell to Tommy Makem (1932-2007)

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.


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