Shane MacGowan death: Tributes pour in to The Pogues singer known for Fairytale of New York

Pogues frontman Shane MacGowan dies aged 65

The Pogues frontman Shane MacGowan has died at the age of 65, just a week after he was discharged from hospital.

The news of his death was confirmed by his wife, Irish journalist and author Victoria Mary Clarke, who said in a statement: “Shane will always be the light that I hold before me and the measure of my dreams and the love of my life”.

Tributes have since flooded in, with Irish premier Leo Varadkar writing he had “beautifully captured the Irish experience”, while his former bandmate shared a black and white image of MacGowan smiling on stage.

Last week, it was announced he was being discharged from hospital ahead of his upcoming birthday on Christmas Day. In a post last Wednesday evening, his wife tweeted an image of him wearing a scarf and bobble hat, thanking the nursing staff for their support.

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.

From the 1980s, he lead the Irish punk band The Pogues. The band are best known for their 1987 hit, the festive song “Fairytale Of New York”.


Jon Stewart calls Pogues gig ‘one of the best shows I ever worked’

Former The Daily Show host Jon Stewart remembered working with MacGowan early in his career, writing on X/Twitter: “Pogues. City Gardens. 1986. One of the best shows I ever worked. Thank you Shane. RIP.”

Kevin Perry1 December 2023 07:00


Watch MacGowan’s last TV appearance before death

Here’s MacGowan speaking about his musical influences in one of his final television appearances:

Watch Shane MacGowan’s last TV appearance before death

Shane MacGowan spoke of his musical influences in his last TV appearance before his death aged 65. The Pogues star had been receiving hospital care after being diagnosed with viral encephalitis, a condition that causes the brain to swell, in December 2022. MacGowan closed out a special edition of the Late Late Show in 2019 with a performance of Christmas anthem “Fairytale of New York”, with more than 591,000 people tuning in to the programme. In a heartfelt tribute after his death was announced on Thursday 30 November, MacGowan’s wife Victoria Mary Clarke said: “Shane will always be the light that I hold before me and the measure of my dreams and the love of my life.”

Kevin Perry1 December 2023 06:00


Watch MacGowan’s last TV performance before his death

Here’s MacGowan singing “Dirty Old Town” on Dublin Simon’s Christmas Eve Busk in 2021:

Watch: The Pogues’ Shane MacGowan’s last performance before death aged 65

Watch Shane MacGowan perform “Dirty Old Town” for Dublin Simon’s 2021 Christmas Eve Busk. It was announced on Thursday 30 November that The Pogues frontman has died aged 65. He had been receiving treatment for months for viral encephalitis – a serious condition which leads to brain swelling. “Shane will always be the light that I hold before me and the measure of my dreams and the love of my life,” wife Victoria Mary Clarke said. Featuring on the Christmas Eve Busk two years ago, MacGowan performed “Dirty Old Town” at St Patrick’s Cathedral in aid of Dublin’s Simon Community. Initially written by Ewan MacColl in 1949, the song was made popular by The Dubliners and later, The Pogues.

Kevin Perry1 December 2023 05:00


Tom Morello remembers MacGowan and Sinead O’Connor

Rage Against The Machine guitarist Tom Morello remembered MacGowan with a video of his and Sinead O’Connor’s 1995 duet “Haunted”. O’Connor died in July this year at the age of 56.

Kevin Perry1 December 2023 04:30


Shane MacGowan: the shy and complex genius behind The Pogues

For many years, one only had to look at MacGowan’s mouth to get an idea of his intemperate lifestyle. Writing for The Independent in 2015, journalist Richard Jinman described it as “a monument to rock’n’roll excess; a frightening cavity hollowed out by misadventure and misbehaviour”. MacGowan confirmed a longstanding rumour that some of the damage was caused by biting into a vinyl copy of The Beach Boys Greatest Hits, Volume 3: “I was out of my head,” he told The Independent. Convinced he was conducting talks with “the Americans” after World War Three, he declared, “this is what I think of American culture”, and took a bite out of the record.

Read Independent Music Editor Roisin O’Connor’s MacGowan obituary here:

Kevin Perry1 December 2023 04:00


The night Kiefer Sutherland met Shane MacGowan

Among the clips doing the rounds on social media is an interview Canadian actor Kiefer Sutherland gave on Ireland’s The Late Late Show in 2019.

In it, the 24 star recalled meeting MacGowan for the first time while he was out to dinner with Ronnie Wood and Sinéad O’Connor.

The pair apparently had a disagreement over politics and ended up “rolling around on the floor” fighting.

“Shane MacGowan at that time had a cast on his right arm that looked as well lived in as anything I’ve ever seen,” Sutherland said, “and he did not have a lot of teeth at the time either, so fighting just seemed unfair.”

Hours later, the actor said MacGowan tapped him on the shoulder and said he needed a place to stay that night.

“I was so impressed with his directness that I said, ‘well do you want a drink?’”

The two went back to Sutherland’s hotel and when he got up early the next day, “all the blankets were perfectly folded… [and] there was a note that he had written on hotel stationery and it was the most beautiful letter I’d ever read.

“It was like poetry. It was just a thank you note but it was so generous, the things he had to say about me and our night and humanity, and it was quite long. And I’ve still got this letter to this day, because it changed my perspective – don’t judge a book by its cover and very rarely trust first encounters.”

Kevin Perry1 December 2023 03:30


The Shane MacGowan I knew was so much more than a Christmas song

The last time I listened to the Pogues’ debut album, I thought I heard a ghost. In the fade-out on side one, a Corkman recites a Gaelic phrase that translates as “There’s no place like home”, and performs a brief, solo lilt.

This was my uncle, Tom O’Grady, whose voice I had not heard in the decade since he died – his contribution appears only on the vinyl LP, if you let the needle run out. Tom was no singer, much less a musician. His appearance on the record was down to his friendship with Shane MacGowan, the band’s frontman and chief songwriter, who has sadly died today aged 65.

The pair met in the early 1980s at Rocks Off, the record shop on Hanway Street, an alley off Tottenham Court Road in central London, where Tom shopped and Shane worked before The Pogues took off. They bonded over a mutual passion for music, film and general carousing, though their shared ethnicity was doubtless important to the friendship, too. As was the case with most migrants to Britain in this period, you gravitated to your own.

Kevin Perry1 December 2023 03:00


Sinn Fein president describes MacGowan as a ‘poet’

Sinn Fein President Mary Lou McDonald has described Shane MacGowan as “a poet” who was unique in how he told “the Irish story”.

She said that Ireland “has lost one of its most beloved icons and the world one of its greatest songwriters”.

“Shane was a poet, a dreamer and a champion of social justice. He was a dedicated Republican and a proud Irishman.


“Nobody told the Irish story like Shane – stories of emigration, heartache, dislocation, redemption, love and joy.

“Shane brought his musical unique style to all corners of the world, and his music will continue to be enjoyed for generations to come.

“Today we mourn his passing. He was one of the best of us. Ni bheidh a leitheid aris ann.

“I want to extend my deepest condolences to his wife Victoria, his sister Siobhan, his extended family and very wide circle of friends.”

Kevin Perry1 December 2023 02:30


Fairytale of New York: How The Pogues and Kirsty MacColl made the Christmas classic

“Fairytale of New York” is a drunken hymn for people with broken dreams and abandoned hopes. It is, therefore, a perfect contrast to some of the perkier perennial favourites we wheel out each Christmas.

The song begins with its narrator, an Irish immigrant, being thrown into a drunk tank to sleep off his Christmas Eve binge.

Hearing an old man sing the Irish ballad “The Rare Old Mountain Dew”, he begins to dream about his memories of the female character in the song, and so begins the story of two people who fell in love in America, only to see their plans of a bright future dashed.

Kevin Perry1 December 2023 02:05


Nitin Sawhney posts musical tribute to MacGowan

A lovely musical tribute to MacGowan from the Ivor Novello-winning multi-instrumentalist Nitin Sawhney, performing a solo piano version of “Fairytale of New York”:

Kevin Perry1 December 2023 01:04