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Home » Shane MacGowan: Pogues Singer Dies Aged 65

Shane MacGowan: Pogues Singer Dies Aged 65

Image source, Getty Images

Image caption, Born in Kent, MacGowan was the son of Irish immigrants and fronted The Pogues from 1982 until their break-up in 2014

By Steven McIntosh, Helen Bushby and Annabel Rackham

Entertainment reporters

The Pogues frontman Shane MacGowan has died aged 65, following a recent hospital stay after being diagnosed with encephalitis.

The singer-songwriter, whose hits include 1987’s Fairytale of New York and A Pair of Brown Eyes, had been unwell for some time.

MacGowan also had well-documented problems with drugs and alcohol.

His wife Victoria Mary Clarke said on Instagram that MacGowan “meant the world to me”.

She wrote: “I don’t know how to say this so I am just going to say it. Shane… has gone to be with Jesus and Mary and his beautiful mother Therese.”

She said MacGowan “will always be the light that I hold before me and the measure of my dreams and the love of my life and the most beautiful soul and beautiful angel and the sun and the moon and the start and end of everything that I hold dear”.

A statement from MacGowan’s spokesperson confirmed he “died peacefully at 3.30am this morning (30 November) with his wife and sister by his side”.

“Prayers and the last rites were read during his passing,” he added.

On 22 November, Clarke said he had left hospital, and just a few days later she said they celebrated their wedding anniversary, and were grateful they were “still alive”.

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Born in Kent, MacGowan was the son of Irish immigrants and fronted The Pogues from 1982 until their break-up in 2014.

He had formed the Irish punk band Pogue Mahone, later shortened to The Pogues, in 1982 and released seven studio albums.

In 1988 Kirsty MacColl collaborated with The Pogues for the Christmas song Fairytale of New York, written by MacGowan, which got to number two in the UK chart and remains one of the UK’s best-loved Christmas songs.

MacGowan revealed he was diagnosed with encephalitis last year in a video posted to social media on New Year’s Eve.

It is an uncommon but serious condition in which the brain becomes inflamed, according to the NHS website.

He had also used a wheelchair since 2015 after injuring himself in a fall.

In 2018 he was honoured with a lifetime achievement award at a 60th birthday party in Dublin’s National Concert Hall.

Media caption, Watch: MacGowan reminisces about his Christmas hit Fairytale of New York

A documentary about his life – Crock Of Gold: A Few Rounds With Shane MacGowan – was released in 2020.

He was close friends with Irish singer Sinéad O’Connor who died in July.

In her statement, Clarke said: “I am blessed beyond words to have met him and to have loved him and to have been so endlessly and unconditionally loved by him and to have had so many years of life and love and joy and fun and laughter and so many adventures.

“There’s no way to describe the loss that I am feeling and the longing for just one more of his smiles that lit up my world.”

Irish President Michael D Higgins described Shane MacGowan as one of “music’s greatest lyricists”.

“Like so many across the world, it was with the greatest sadness that I learned this morning of the death of Shane MacGowan,” he said.

“His words have connected Irish people all over the globe to their culture and history, encompassing so many human emotions in the most poetic of ways.”

Image source, Getty Images

Image caption, The singer was pictured looking frail in 2022

Author Tony Parsons posted on social media: “I remember Shane MacGowan when he was in his mid-teens and coming down the Roxy in Covent Garden to bang on unattended drums in his Union jack jacket.

“A crazy kid with a dream who grew into one of the greatest talents these islands have ever know. A creative giant. Sleep well, Shane and see you at number one for Christmas.”

The musician Nick Cave called him “a true friend and the greatest songwriter of his generation,” adding it was “a very sad day.”

The Charlatans frontman Tim Burgess also paid tribute, saying MacGowan had “a life lived to the full”.

“A lyrical genius. An inspiration to so many of us who wanted to be in bands. I followed The Pogues to far flung places, met Shane a few times and watched some of the most exhilarating shows I’ve ever witnessed,” he also said on social media.

Derry Girls actor Siobhan McSweeney has said that Shane MacGowan “was the voice of London for us Irish” and said when she was scared about moving to the capital “he lured me over with songs about chancers, drinkers, lovers, poets and scoundrels”.

Fairytale of New York producer Steve Lillywhite told BBC Radio 5 Live MacGowan was “truly a poet”, crediting him for inventing “a new style of music that was sort of the punk attitude with traditional Irish rhythms”.

MacGowan’s bandmate, Spider Stacy also paid tribute with a band photo.

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TV presenter Dermot O’Leary talked about the importance of The Pogues for the Irish “diaspora”.

“The Pogues were our band,” he said. “Shane’s words were symbols of an Ireland I knew through sepia-worn pictures and endless summer holidays.”