Coming from a rich oral tradition of poetry and song in South Armagh, including his own mother Sarah, he was very sympathetic to keeping the tradition alive and the work that went into it, so he often praised fellow musicians, concert and festival organizers who played a valuable part in keeping the music vibrant and relevant.
Some of that is captured vividly in John O'Brien Junior's "Festival Legends: Songs and Stories" (www.songsandstories.net) published last year with some behind the scenes stories from Makem and also Liam Clancy among others.
Makem took great delight in the continued revival of Irish folk and traditional music, relishing in the success of groups like Cherish the Ladies and its rambunctious leader, Joanie Madden, who was a good friend as well.
Making his way in America while the Clancys returned to Ireland, Makem was more of trailblazer for many of the entertainers who followed over here on the festival and club circuit and has been duly recognized as the "Godfather of Irish Folk Musicians."
In the week since he passed away, many tributes have surfaced online at various sites singing his praises or waxing nostalgic via You Tube, which is truly indicative of the vast impression he left on so many of us who saw or heard him perform over the 50 years in various settings.
We are fortunate that he left a rich legacy of recorded material, and it is safe to say that he will not be forgotten nor will his like be among us again. He just returned from his last visit to Ireland last month after being awarded an honorary doctorate at the University of Ulster.
Tommy Makem will be laid to rest this Thursday, August 9 in Dover, New Hampshire alongside his wife Mary, who passed away in 2001. We send our condolences to his children, Katie, Shane, Conor and Rory.
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