Tommy Makem (1932-2007)
Publicity photo of Armagh professional singer, instrumentalist and songwriter Tommy Makem with American five-string banjo, c. 1969
Tommy Makem (1932–2007), born in Keady, Co Armagh, was a highly popular singer of the last five decades, in the United States and in Ireland. A danceband singer in his youth, and a warpiper and whistle player, he inherited a mixed Ulster legacy of traditional songs from his mother Sarah (née Boyle), an extensively recorded source singer. During the 1950s folk revival in bohemian New York he formed a singing group, the Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem, with fellow actors Tom, Paddy and Liam Clancy of Waterford. Their commercial recordings of Irish national and traditional songs, featuring their strong dramatic self-accompanied singing, and drawing on their considerable stagecraft, were enormously successful throughout the 1960s in Ireland, Irish America and Scotland, and inspired a host of similar groups. Based in the United States, Makem established a solo career from the 1970s and also formed a long musical partnership with Liam Clancy. The composer of several universally known popular songs, and the recipient of many awards and honours, he continued to perform to acclaim until his recent death in New Hampshire.
Photo from ITMA Gerard O’Grady Collection, courtesy Irish Traditional Music Archive
Published on 1 September 2007