Longtime U2 tour manager Dennis Sheehan died Tuesday night in West Hollywood. The band confirmed his death via its website. He was on tour with the group in Los Angeles, where U2 was about to kick off a five-night residency. Variety reports Sheehan suffered a heart attack. He was 68.
“We’ve lost a family member, we’re still taking it in,” Bono said in a statement. “He wasn’t just a legend in the music business, he was a legend in our band. He is irreplaceable.”
“Our heartfelt sympathy is with his wonderful family,” Arthur Fogel, Live Nation’s President of Global Touring, said, calling Sheehan a “dear friend to us all.”
Sheehan has served as U2’s tour manager for more than three decades. Over the course of his career, he also worked with Led Zeppelin, assisting on their 1975 and 1977 tours, as well as Iggy Pop, Patti Smith, Lou Reed, Siouxsie and the Banshees and members of the Sex Pistols, according to Projection, Lights and Staging News (PLSN).
“His charm and humor [was] a beacon in the meltdown of the late-Seventies,” Robert Plant told the Los Angeles Times. “He ironed my green satin flares with a straight face and helped me reacquaint with the gift of speech every morning after!
“When my family suffered great loss, he was there to support when so many were not,” he added. “I loved him like the impish brother that he was. Time is vicious — we move too fast to spend it with the people who really matter.”
“I never drank until I was 30, I never did drugs and I was always honest,” Sheehan told PLSN of his success. “I think people knew my history at the time, and knew I was straight and had a sense of responsibility. I always got the job done regardless.”
Born in Wolverhampton, England, Sheehan grew up in southern Ireland – where his family was from – and in England. When he got older, he learned guitar and played around Europe professionally, landing his first tour-managing gig at age 19 with a Jamaican-based soul group called Jimmy James and the Vagabonds, according to PLSN. After working with a Scottish band called Cartoone (also managed by Led Zeppelin manager Peter Grant), Sheehan was offered a job with Led Zeppelin. From there, he worked with Patti Smith and other artists.
Sheehan joined up with U2 in 1982 when manager Paul McGuinness was looking for a tour manager and one of the candidates sent Sheehan. He bonded with the group almost instantly and became their go-to tour manager. Eventually, his duties extended beyond touring with the band, such as organizing an African trip for Bono, helping the Edge plan a New Orleans visit and aiding with the arrangement of the band’s multiple visits to Congress. He accompanied Bono on the singer’s extracurricular activities, even going to the White House when Bill and Hillary Clinton invited the singer to perform “One” at America’s Millennium Gala.
In 2008, Sheehan received the Lifetime Achievement Award at the Parnelli Awards, which recognizes the live-event industry.
“There is something extremely special about U2,” Sheehan told U2 Magazine in 1984 (via AtU2.com). “Whether it be in their social lives, which they are very particular about, or in their business life, which they are also particular about – they go for the best, and in turn the people that work for them give of their best.”