Luke Kelly ,the legend
This week is the 30th anniversary of the death of Luke Kelly. Luke Kelly was born into in Lattimore Cottages, 1 Sheriff Street, a quarter of a mile from Dublin’s main thoroughfare, O’Connell Street. His father worked his entire life in Jacob’s biscuit factory and enjoyed playing football. Both Luke and his brother Paddy played club Gaelic football and Association football as children.Luke left school at thirteen and after four years of odd-jobbing, he went to England in 1958. Working at steel fixing with his brother Paddy on a building site in Wolverhampton, he was sacked after asking for more money. He worked odd jobs from oil barrel cleaning to vacuum salesman.
In London, he met Domnic Behan who introduced Luke to the folk music of Northern England and Scotland. Soon, he became a name around the ballad clubs, singing and strumming a banjo. After two-and-a-half years he shouldered his banjo and went to Paris where he busked on the streets.
Arriving back in Dublin in 1962, he frequented O’Donoghue’s pub on Merrion Row, which was known as a good outlet for a folk singer. There he met Barney McKenna and other musicians, who shared in the growing interest in folk music.After he had appeared on a show with other individual members of the Dubliners, the suggestion was made by Ronnie Drew, who was already well-known at the time, that they should form a group. After they established a secure base in Dublin in places like the Abbey Tavern in Howth, Luke and the Dubliners made a record called seven drunken nights, which was released in England, boosting their popularity and creating a demand for them elsewhere in the world.
In the early so a craze for ballad sessions was arising in Dublin. The Abbey Tavern sessions in Howth were the forerunner to sessions in the Hollybrook, Clontarf, the International Bar and the Grafton cinema. Other early people playing at O’Donoghues included the Fureys, father and sons, John Keenan and Sean Og McKenna, Johnny Moynihan and Mairtin Byrnes.
Luke Kelly is regarded by most Irish people as the most popular Irish folk singer of all time. Judging by the amount of musicians who want to learn Luke’s songs there’s nobody that comes close to The Red Haired Minstrel Boy. There’s even a campaign going on over at Facebook to have a statue of Luke Kelly erected in Dublin to honour Ireland’s favourite folkie.
Today an appreciation for traditional music is once again stirring among a new generation of music fans – many of whom weren’t even born when Kelly died in 1984. This is thanks, in part, thanks to Kelly’s emotional interpretations of songs that too many people were historical artefacts, rather than living pieces of musical art. In the process, he inspired and invigorated countless ballad singers.