Poignant last interview with Liam Clancy in Irish America magazine
The luck of the Irish
Maybe it was the unique style of The Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem. Maybe, with one of their own in the White House, Irish-Americans were ready for a new kind of Irish music.
Or maybe it was the sweaters.
As legend has it, the Clancys’ mother Johanna sent over four thick, white Aran sweaters so the boys could stave off New York’s winter chill. Now, Makem and the Clancys may not have been willing to play the stage Irish card. But their manager, Marty Erlichman, knew that if this act was going to hit the big time, they would have to appeal to some degree to Irish-American traditionalists.
Either way, when the quartet hit the stage on The Ed Sullivan Show, they became at least as well known for their sweaters as for their tunes.
But on the recently released recording, The Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem In Person at Carnegie Hall: The Complete 1963 Concert, something more than fashion or even music shines through. This recording captures the boys at the top of their game, but it also captures a unique moment in American history.
Between tunes, Makem gleefully cracks jokes about JFK – “big bad John in the White House” – as well as the American establishment.
“Hail Mary, full of grace –- the Masons are in second place!” Makem cracks.
Then there is the hilarious tune, “Mr. Moses Ri – Tooral – I Ay,” about a Jewish-Irish merchant who is arrested for posting a sign with his name written in Hebrew -– which is swiftly mistaken for Irish Gaelic by an ambitious British police officer.
“The song was written not so much to show the love between the Irish and the Jews so much as to show the stupidity of the British,” Makem cracks.
Finally, introducing the rebel ballad, “The Patriot Game,” a mention of the Irish Republican Army -– which, in 1963, had not yet earned the mythic status it later would when the Troubles heated up in the late 1960s -– earns lusty applause.
Loud applause for a guerilla army defined as terroristic by the British? This is not exactly what you’d expect at Carnegie Hall. But this is the new world the Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem helped create.
Following Ed Sullivan and Carnegie Hall, it might seem as if The Clancys and Tommy Makem were suddenly famous. They even performed for JFK himself in 1963. But they were overnight sensations well over a decade in the making.
Along the way, they became famous in Greenwich Village pubs such as The White Horse as well as their “home away from home” (as Liam puts it) The Lion’s Head. Pete Hamill, Frank McCourt and so many others made The Lion’s Head the famous “bar for drinkers with writing problems.”
Along the way, Bob Dylan became a huge admirer of the Clancys, particularly Liam. At The White Horse, Dylan and Liam would imitate the other’s, uh, unique singing style. It’s great to have this Carnegie Hall recording, but a real treasure would be to hear Dylan imitating Liam, and vice versa, on “Eileen Aroon.”
- The New York Times questions Ireland’s highly-p
- Gay wedding cakes latest target of anti-gay...
- Bah! Humbug! The ten worst things about Christm
- Megyn Kelly says Santa and Jesus are white,...
- Racist incidents in Ireland up by 85 percent...
- Spanish judge slams Ryanair’s sexist air...
- Irish outrage over NY Times pigeon-eating...
- No Irish prosecution for man named as world’s...
- Offensive NFL sign outside restaurant just...
- How Christmas was in my father’s time