Tommy Makem

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Tommy Makem
TommyMakem DublinOhio.jpg
Makem at the Dublin Irish Festival, 2005
Background information
Born(1932-11-04)4 November 1932
Keady, County Armagh, Northern Ireland
Died1 August 2007(2007-08-01) (aged 74)
Dover, New Hampshire, United States
Genres Folk, traditional Irish
Occupation(s)Musician, songwriter, artist, poet
InstrumentsVocals, banjo, tin whistle
Years active1956–2007
Associated acts The Clancy Brothers
Makem and Clancy
The Makem Brothers
Barley Bree
Sarah Makem
Website makem.com

Thomas "Tommy" Makem (4 November 1932 – 1 August 2007) was an internationally celebrated Irish folk musician, artist, poet and storyteller. He was best known as a member of the Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem. He played the long-necked 5-string banjo, tin whistle, low whistle, guitar, bodhrán and bagpipes, and sang in a distinctive baritone. He was sometimes known as "The Bard of Armagh" (taken from a traditional song of the same name) and "The Godfather of Irish Music". [1]

Contents

Biography

Makem was born and raised in Keady, County Armagh (the "Hub of the Universe" as Makem always said), in Northern Ireland. [2] His mother, Sarah Makem, was an important source of traditional Irish music, who was visited and recorded by, among others, Diane Guggenheim Hamilton, Jean Ritchie, Peter Kennedy and Sean O'Boyle. His father, Peter Makem, was a fiddler who also played the bass drum in a local pipe band named "Oliver Plunkett", after a Roman Catholic martyr of the reign of Charles II of England. His brother and sister were folk musicians also. Young Tommy Makem, from the age of 8, was a member of the St. Patrick's church choir for 15 years where he sang Gregorian chant and motets. He did not learn to read music but he made it in his "own way". [3]

Makem started to work at 14 as a clerk in a garage and later he worked for a while as a barman at Mone's Bar, a local pub, and as a local correspondent for The Armagh Observer.

He emigrated to the United States in 1955, carrying his few possessions and a set of bagpipes (from his time in a pipe band). Arriving in Dover, New Hampshire, Makem worked at Kidder Press, where in 1956 his hand was accidentally crushed by a press. [4] With his arm in a sling, he left Dover for New York to pursue an acting career. [5]

The Clancys and Makem were signed to Columbia Records in 1961. The same year, at the Newport Folk Festival, Makem and Joan Baez were named the most promising newcomers on the American folk scene. During the 1960s, the Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem [6] performed sellout concerts at such venues as Carnegie Hall, and made television appearances on shows like The Ed Sullivan Show and The Tonight Show . The group performed for President John F. Kennedy. They also played in smaller venues such as the Gate of Horn in Chicago. They appeared jointly in the UK Albums Chart in April 1966, when Isn't It Grand Boys reached number 22. [7]

Makem left the group in 1969 to pursue a solo career. In 1975, he and Liam Clancy were both booked to play a folk festival in Cleveland, Ohio, and were persuaded to do a set together. Thereafter they often performed as Makem and Clancy, recording several albums together. He once again went solo in 1988. Throughout the 1970s and 1980s Makem performed both solo and with Liam Clancy on The Irish Rovers' various television shows, which were filming in Canada and Ireland.

In the 1980s and 1990s, Makem was a principal in a well-known Irish music venue in New York, "Tommy Makem's Irish Pavilion". This East 57th Street club was a prominent and well-loved performance spot for a wide range of musicians. Among the performers and visitors were Paddy Reilly, Joe Burke, and Ronnie Gilbert. Makem was a regular performer, often solo and often as part of Makem and Clancy, particularly in the late fall and holiday season. The club was also used for warm-up performances in the weeks before the 1984 reunion concert of The Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem at Lincoln Center. In addition, the after-party for Bob Dylan's legendary 30th Anniversary Concert Celebration at Madison Square Garden in 1992 was held at the Irish Pavilion.

In 1997 he wrote a book, Tommy Makem's Secret Ireland and in 1999 premiered a one-man theatre show, Invasions and Legacies, in New York. His career includes various other acting, video, [8] composition, and writing credits. [9] He also established the Tommy Makem International Festival of Song in South Armagh in 2000. [10]

Family

Makem was married to Mary Shanahan, a native of Chicago, for 37 years, and had four children – daughter Katie Makem-Boucher, and sons Shane, Conor and Rory. They also had two grandchildren, Molly Dewar née Makem and Robert Boucher. Mary died in 2001. [10] [11]

Makem's three sons (who perform as "The Makem Brothers") and nephews Tom and Jimmy Sweeney continue the family folk music tradition.

Death

Makem died in Dover, New Hampshire on 1 August 2007, following a lengthy battle with lung cancer. He continued to record and perform until close to the end. Paying tribute to him after his death, Liam Clancy said, "He was my brother in every way." [12] He is buried next to his wife at New Saint Mary Cemetery in Dover.

Compositions

Makem was a prolific composer/songwriter. His performances were always full of his compositions, many of which became standards in the repertoire. Some, notably "Four Green Fields", became so well known that they were sometimes described as anonymous folk songs. During the fall of the Iron Curtain, Makem often proudly told the story that his song "The Winds Are Singing Freedom" had become a sort of folk anthem among Eastern Europeans seeing a new future opening before them.

Makem's best-known songs include "Four Green Fields", "Gentle Annie", "The Rambles of Spring", "The Winds Are Singing Freedom", "The Town of Ballybay", "Winds of the Morning", "Mary Mack", and "Farewell to Carlingford". Even though many people mistakenly believe that Makem wrote "Red is the Rose", it is a traditional Irish folk song. [13]

Performance notes

Makem had a forceful and charismatic stage presence – the result of years of public performance, a strong personality and a bard's voice. Performances frequently included the following elements:

"If your nose is running and your feet smell, you're upside down."

Awards and honours

He received many awards and honours, including three honorary doctorates: one from the University of New Hampshire in 1998, one from the University of Limerick in 2001, and one from the University of Ulster in 2007; as well as the World Folk Music Association's Lifetime Achievement Award in 1999. With the Clancy Brothers he was listed among the top 100 Irish-Americans of the 20th century in 1999. [10]

A bridge over the Cocheco River on Washington Street in Makem's long-time home of Dover, New Hampshire, was named the Tommy and Mary Makem Memorial Bridge in 2010. [14]

In 2015 a new Tommy Makem Arts Centre was opened in his home town of Keady.

Discography

Makem made dozens of recordings. [15]

Specific examples follow (solo recordings only).

Following releases all available on Shanachie CD unless noted otherwise
Guest recordings
Posthumous releases

Videos

Film

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Makem and Clancy was an Irish folk duo popular in the 1970s and 1980s. The group consisted of Tommy Makem and Liam Clancy, who had originally achieved fame as a part of the trailblazing folk group The Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem in the 1960s. Makem and Clancy sang a combination of traditional Irish music, folks songs from a variety of countries, and newly written pieces, including compositions that Tommy Makem himself wrote. One reporter described their music as "more polished and varied than that used by the Clancy Brothers."

<i>The Rising of the Moon</i> (album) 1956 studio album by The Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem

The Rising of the Moon: Irish Songs of Rebellion is a collection of traditional Irish folk songs performed by The Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem. It was the group's first album and was initially recorded in 1956. For the original recording, the only instrument used was Paddy Clancy's harmonica, since Tommy Makem had damaged his hand and Liam Clancy was still learning how to play the guitar. The group had yet to develop its distinctive musical sound, so there was little ensemble singing.

<i>Come Fill Your Glass with Us</i> 1959 studio album by The Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem

Come Fill Your Glass with Us: Irish Songs of Drinking & Blackguarding is a collection of traditional Irish drinking songs that first brought The Clancy Brothers and their frequent collaborator Tommy Makem to prominence. It was their second album and was released in 1959 by Tradition Records, a small music label run by one of the Clancy Brothers, Paddy Clancy. A reviewer for the folk and world music magazine, Dirty Linen, later called this the album that "launched the Clancy Brothers to fame in the Americas and helped launch a revival of interest in traditional Irish music."

Makem and Spain was an Irish-American folk music band. The band was founded as "The Makem Brothers" in February 1989 by Rory, Shane, and Conor Makem, the three sons of "The Godfather of Irish Music" Tommy Makem, and grandsons of Irish source singer Sarah Makem.

Sarah Makem a native of Keady, County Armagh, Northern Ireland, was a traditional Irish singer. She was the wife of fiddler Peter Makem, mother of musicians Tommy Makem and Jack Makem, and grandmother of musicians Tom Sweeney, Jimmy Sweeney, Shane Makem, Conor Makem and Rory Makem. Sarah Makem and her cousin, Annie Jane Kelly, were members of the Singing Greenes of Keady.

Tradition Records was an American record label from 1955 to 1966 that specialized in folk music. The label was founded and financed by Guggenheim heiress Diane Hamilton in 1956. Its president and director was Patrick "Paddy" Clancy, who was soon to join his brothers Liam and Tom Clancy and Tommy Makem, as part of the new Irish folk group, The Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem. Liam Clancy designed the company's maple leaf logo. Columbia University Professor of Folklore Kenneth Goldstein was also involved in the early creation of the company, which operated out of Greenwich Village, New York, United States.

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<i>The Boys Wont Leave the Girls Alone</i> 1962 studio album by The Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem

The Boys Won't Leave the Girls Alone is a collection of mostly traditional Irish folk songs performed by The Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem. It also includes several songs from other countries, such as the Scottish folk song, "Marie's Wedding". It was their third album for Columbia Records and was released in 1962. It was also their first studio album for the label. Its title is taken from the song, "I'll Tell My Ma". The original LP featured liner notes by Tom Clancy.

Robbie O'Connell is an Irish singer songwriter who performs solo, as well as with The Greenfields of America. He also appears with Dónal Clancy (cousin), Dan Milner, and fiddler Rose Clancy. He has also toured and recorded with The Clancy Brothers, being their nephew. For over 20 years, he has conducted small cultural tours to Ireland with Celtica Music & Tours and, for more than ten years, WGBH Learning Tours. Married with four grown children, he now spends his time between Bristol, Rhode Island and Waterford.

<i>In Person at Carnegie Hall</i> 1963 live album by The Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem

In Person at Carnegie Hall was the seminal Irish folk group The Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem's most successful album. It was recorded in Carnegie Hall on March 17, 1963 at their annual St. Patrick's Day concert. In the documentary, The Story of the Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem, Paddy Clancy said that this was the best album the group recorded. The album spent months on the American Top LPs chart and broke the top fifty albums in December 1963, an unprecedented occurrence for an Irish folk music recording at that time. It has never been out of print since its initial release.

<i>The Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem</i> (album) 1961 studio album by The Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem

The Clancy Brothers & Tommy Makem is a collection of traditional Irish songs performed by The Clancy Brothers with frequent collaborator Tommy Makem. It was their third album and their final one for Tradition Records, the small label that the eldest Clancy brother Paddy Clancy ran. After this, the group recorded exclusively for Columbia Records until 1970. This was the first album for which they used the group name, The Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem. Their prior recordings had simply listed their individual names on the cover.

<i>A Spontaneous Performance Recording</i> 1961 live album by The Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem

A Spontaneous Performance Recording!: The Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem, sometimes simply called A Spontaneous Performance, is a 1961 collection of traditional Irish folk songs performed by The Clancy Brothers with frequent collaborator Tommy Makem. It was their first album for Columbia Records. The group would continue to record for Columbia for the remainder of the 1960s. The album was nominated for a Grammy Award in 1962 for Best Folk Recording.

<i>Hearty and Hellish!</i> 1962 live album by The Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem

Hearty and Hellish! is a collection of traditional Irish folk songs performed by The Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem. It was their second album for Columbia Records. In a January 1963 article, Time Magazine selected Hearty and Hellish! as one of the top 10 albums of 1962.

Recorded Live in Ireland is a 1965 album of Irish folk songs performed by The Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem. It was the first live album to be recorded in stereo in Ireland. It was their sixth LP for Columbia Records and, unusually for the group, included two newly composed songs in the folk style. Music critic Joe Goldberg wrote the liner notes.

References

  1. Martin, Douglas (3 August 2007). "Tommy Makem, 74, hero of Irish folk music, dies – International Herald Tribune". www.iht.com. Retrieved 29 July 2008.
  2. Dicaire, David (2011). The Folk Music Revival, 1958–1970: Biographies of Fifty Performers and Other Influential People. McFarland. p. 184. ISBN   978-0-7864-6352-7.
  3. Williams Stacey, text on the back cover of the record "Songs of Tommy Makem" Tradition Records, TLP 1044.
  4. Makem, Conor (20 January 2011). "First Person by Conor Makem: Johnny we hardly knew ye". Fosters.com. Retrieved 26 November 2011.
  5. "The Makem & Spain Brothers : Tommy Makem Bio". Makem.com. 4 August 1998. Retrieved 30 December 2011.
  6. "Issue no.47, 327:obituary". The Daily Telegraph . 3 August 2007. p. 27. A popular refrain at the time was Why do the Clancy Brothers sing? Because Tommy Makem
  7. Roberts, David (2006). British Hit Singles & Albums (19th ed.). London: Guinness World Records Limited. p. 107. ISBN   1-904994-10-5.
  8. redbiddy.com Archived 14 May 2008 at the Wayback Machine : Documentary videos seen on PBS
  9. imdb.com: IMDB partial listing of Makem work
  10. 1 2 3 Derek Schofield (3 August 2007). "Tommy Makem – Obituary". The Guardian . p. 39.
  11. "Mary Shanahan Makem (1942-2001)". Findagrave.com. Retrieved 16 March 2020.
  12. "Musician Tommy Makem dies aged 74". Irishtimes.com. As a tribute to Makem, the Dover radio station, WTSN, broadcast two tributes to Makem, one on 2 August, and one on 9 August, the day of Makem's funeral. The tributes were aired on the Open Mike Show With Mike Pomp
  13. "690. Red is the Rose (Traditional Irish)". YouTube. 12 January 2009. Retrieved 30 December 2011.
  14. Claffey, Jason. "Makems honored: Dover ceremony marks naming of bridge for Tommy and Mary". Fosters.com.
  15. "The Makem & Spain Brothers : Discography". Makem.com.
  16. 1 2 Also available on "From the Archives" – Shanachie CD
  17. Also available as "An Evening With Tommy Makem" – Shanachie CD
  18. "A Time to Remember". IMDb.com. Retrieved 3 February 2020.

Further reading