Get this crazy baby off my head!


Luke Kelly

Luke Kelly - 'Baile Átha Cliath' - 1977 - Ard-Ri

The late Irish patriot, and great Dubliner, Luke Kelly (1940-84), was probably known as the greatest Irish folk singer and balladeer of modern times. He was a member of the renowned Irish folk group, The Dubliners for many years. Nearly 25 years after his death, Luke Kelly is a sore loss to the world of folk music. On June 30, 1980, at a concert in County Cork, Ireland, Luke collapsed on stage with what turned out to be a brain tumour. It is said that the whole of Dublin grieved his early death in January 1984. Luke Kelly, will never be forgotten

This is not typical of the music found on A.O.O.F.C, but an exception will be made for Luke Kelly. Like Ewan McColl, Pete Seeger, Joan Baez, and Bob Dylan, the songs come from the heart. They tell a story. They relate to real sociological issues, and they are very relevant to modern day music, and even more so in the times we presently live in. The sound quality varies on this album, but it gives an idea of the great singer that Luke Kelly was, and the real emotion he brought to the songs he sang.

"Walking all the day, near tall towers where falcons build their nests. Silver winged they fly, they know the call of freedom in their breasts. Saw Black Head against the sky with twisted rocks that run down to the sea. Living on your western shore, saw summer sunsets, asked for more. I stood by your Atlantic sea and sang a song for Ireland." © Phil and June Colclough [ from the song "Song For Ireland"]


1.Dirty Old Town - The song was written about Salford, Lancashire, England, where MacColl was brought up. The 1949 song is a scornful description of industrial Northern England, and in some ways forecast the industrial collapse in Britain, over 20 years later. It is said that Luke Kelly sang the song as a scathing reference to the similarities to his own hometown, Dublin, Ireland. - Composed by Ewan McColl
2.Joe Hill (A.K.A I Dreamt I Saw Joe Hill Last Night) - Joe Hill b. Sweden, as Joseph Hillstrom was a Swedish-American union organizer; . He came to the United States in 1902 and, as a maritime worker, joined the Industrial Workers of the World in 1910. He wrote many labor songs, including “Casey Jones” and “The Union Scab.” Found guilty in 1915 of murdering a prominent Salt Lake City man, Hill was executed. He has become a legendary hero of radical labor. - Composed by Earl H. Robinson
3.Peggy Gordon - A beautiful traditional Irish love song.
4.Raglan Road (A.K.A Dawning Of The Day) - An achingly beautiful love song, with many references to Dublin locations. Lyrics by Paddy Kavanagh [from the traditional air 'Fainne Gael an Lae' - The Dawning of the Day]
5.Scorn Not His Simplicity - A song about Phil Coulter's handicapped son and demonstrated Luke Kelly's love of mankind, and their societal rights. He loved the song, and only recorded it once for a TV broadcast. - Composed by Phil Coulter
6.Song For Ireland - This great song has become a kind of celebratory anthem in Ireland, but the writers were actually an English couple from Staffordshire, who were inspired to write it when visiting the Dingle peninsula. - Composed by Phil and June Colclough
7.Thank You For The Days (A.K.A Days - Composed by Ray Davies [Kinks]
8.The Black Velvet Band - Traditional song about a man being led astray by a woman who leaves him penniless. This is a very common theme in Irish pub songs.
9.The Bonny Shoals Of Herring - A song about the hardship and the proud tradition of the brave trawlermen of the British fishing industry - Ewan MacColl
10.The Foggy Dew - An Irish rebel ballad commemorating the Easter Rising in 1916, in Dublin against the British occupation of Ireland. Luke Kelly was very much an Irish Nationalist and a very patriotic Irishman. - Composed by Milligan, E./Fox
11.The Rare Ould Times - The song tells of the changes that have occurred in Dublin since the 60's. Progress can come at a high price. - Composed by Pete St. John
12.The Town I Loved So Well - is a song written by Phil Coulter about his childhood in Derry, and focuses on "The Troubles" which was the high price paid by the people of Northern Ireland, after the British occupation in 1969. It is a song of optimism - Composed by Phil Coulter
13.The Travelling People - A great Scottish folk standard about the plight of the underprivileged travelling nomadic societies in Scotland. Pete Seeger composed similar songs about the American poor. - Composed by E. McColl / Noel Mcloughlin
14.The Wild Rover - Traditional - “The Wild Rover” is the man whose faithless girlfriend convinces him that his only dependable companion is “Whiskey in the Jar,” the Irish drinking song is usually much more of a celebration than a cautionary tale. Many of these songs were introduced to a wider audience during the folk revival of the 1960’s, when Irish musicians such as the Clancy Brothers, gained popularity throughout the world


Luke Kelly was born on November 17, 1940, into a working class family in Sheriff Street, a quarter of a mile from Dublin's O'Connell Street. His grandmother, who was a McDonald from Scotland, lived with the family until her death in 1953. His father worked all his life in Jacobs biscuit factory and enjoyed playing soccer. Both Luke and his brother Paddy played club GAA football and soccer as kids. In 1953 the Corporation moved the family to Whitehall, then a north city suburb. Luke left school at 13 and after four years of odd-jobbing 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. The first folk club he came across was in Newcastle in early 1960. Having already acquired the use of a banjo, he started memorising songs. In Leeds he brought his banjo to sessions in McReady's pub and was often to be seen at Communist Party headquarters. The folk revival was under way in England: at the centre of it was Ewan McColl who scripted a radio programme called Ballads and Blues. The skiffle craze had also injected a certain energy into folk singing. Luke started busking. On a trip home he went a fleadh ceoil in Miltown Malbay on the advice of Johnny Moynihan. He listened to recordings of Woodie Guthrie and Pete Seeger. As he sought out the musician in himself, he also developed his political convictions which, as Ronnie Drew pointed out after his death, he stuck to throughout his life. As Ronnie also pointed out, he learned to sing with perfect diction. He befriended Sean Mulready in Birmingham and lived in his home for a period. A teacher who was run out of his job in Dublin after a Catholic witchunt over his communist beliefs, he also had strong music links. A sister, Kathleen Moynihan was a founder member of Comhaltas Ceoltoiri Eireann. He was related by marriage to Festy Conlon, the Co Galway whistle player. His wife's brother, Ned Stapleton, taught Luke The Rocky Road to Dublin. Luke bought his first banjo, a five-string, started a lifelong habit of consummate reading and even took up golf - on one of Birmingham's municipal courses. He got involved in the Jug O'Punch folk club run by Ian Campbell. He befriended Dominick Behan and they performed folk clubs and Irish pubs from London to Glasgow. In London pubs like The Favourite he would hear street singer Margaret Barry and musicians in exile like Roger Sherlock, Seamus Ennis, Bobby Casey and Mairtín Byrnes. Luke Kelly was by now active in the Connolly Asssociation, a left-wing grouping strongest among the exiles in England. His political development was significant. It gave edge and conviction to his performance and lent weight to The Dubliners' repertoire at a time when the youth in Ireland were breaking away from Civil War 'Tweedledum' politics. He was also to start frequenting Ewan McColl and Peggy Seeger's Singer Club in London. In 1961 there was a ballad boom in waiting in Ireland. The Abbey Tavern sessions in Howth was the forerunner to sessions in the Hollybrook, Clontarf, the International Bar and the Grafton cinema. Luke Kelly returned to Dublin in 1962. O'Donoghues was already established as a session house and soon Luke was singing with among others Ronnie Drew and Barney McKenna. Other early people playing at O'Donoghues included the Fureys, father and sons, John Keenan and Sean Og McKenna, Johnny Moynihan and Mairtin Byrnes. A concert John Molloy organised in the Hibernian Hotel led to his Ballad Tour of Ireland with the Ronnie Drew Ballad Group. (Billed in one town as the Ronnie Drew Ballet Group). The success trail led to the Abbey Tavern and the Royal Marine and then to jam-packed sessions in the Embankment, Tallaght. Ciaran Bourke joined the group, followed later by John Sheehan. The called themselves The Dubliners. In 1964 Luke Kelly left the group for nearly two years and was replaced by Bobby Lynch. With the late Deirdre O'Connell, founder of the Focus Theatre, whom he was to marry the following year, he went back to London and became involved in Ewan McColl's "gathering." The Critics, as it was called, was formed to explore folk traditions and help young singers. Luke Kelly greatly admired McColl and saw his time with The Critics as an apprenticeship. "It functioned as a kind of self-help group to develop each other's potential," said Peggy Seeger. Bobby Lynch left The Dubliners and Luke rejoined. They recorded an album in Cecil Sharpe House, London, played the Cambridge Folk Festival and recorded Irish Night Out, a live album with, among other, exiles Margaret Barry, Michael Gorman and Jimmy Powers. They also played a concert in the National Stadium in Dublin with, to Luke's delight, Pete Seeger as special guest. They were on the road to success: Top Twenty hits with Seven Drunken Nights and Black Velvet Band, the Ed Sullivan Show in 1968 and a tour of New Zealand and Australia. The ballad boom in Ireland was becoming increasingly commercialised with publicans building even larger venues for pay-in performances. Christy Moore became a friend after they met in 1967. During his Planxty days he got to know Luke particularly well. "Mind you at that time I think his best singing days were over. I think Luke ran out of steam in The Dubliners as a singer. I've heard tapes of him singing as a younger man and he was wonderful". Luke took to the stage, surprising many with his performance as King Herod in Jesus Christ Superstar. In 1972 The Dubliners themselves performed in Richard's Cork Leg, based on the "incomplete works" of Brendan Behan. An unlikely alliance with Derry composer Phil Counter produced two of Luke's greatest performances: The Town I Loved So Well and the deeply moving Scorn Not His Simplicity. The latter was about Phil's handicapped son and showed Luke as passionate in caring for the individual's plight as he was about the good of society. He had such respect for the song that he only performed it once for a television recording and rarely, if ever, sang it at The Dubliners' often boisterous concerts. On June 30, 1980, during a concert in the Cork Opera House Luke Kelly collapsed on stage. He was rushed to hospital and a brain tumor was diagnosed. Following a lengthy operation there was every hope of a full recovery. He performed again with the group but became ill on a tour of Switzerland and had to pull out. He died in hospital on January 30, 1984. He united Dubliners in their appreciation of their own music and street songs and, years later, when the City Council was divided along Civil War lines over the naming of a new Tolka River bridge, the councillors quickly united as Tony Gregory proposed that it be named after Luke Kelly. © Ronan Nolan, 2008. www.iol.ie/~ronolan/luke_kelly.htm


Anonymous said...

Great music here!

Would love to hear this [Luke Kelly], but the link is dead :(

Any chance of a new link?

Thanks :)))


A.O.O.F.C said...

Hi, Jim. Thanks 4 comment. New link due within 5 days

A.O.O.F.C said...