Shane MacGowan Dead at 65

( – Shane MacGowan, the lead singer of The Pogues at the height of their popularity, has died aged 65. MacGowan wrote most of the band’s greatest hits, including the iconic “Fairytale of New York,” but was plagued throughout his life by alcoholism and drug addiction.

Shane Patrick Lysaght MacGowan was born in Pembury, Kent, on Christmas Day 1957. His parents were Irish immigrants, and returned to Ireland soon after he was born, but moved back to England when he was six years old. MacGowan grew up in and around London, and was privately educated; after several years at an independent prep school, he won a scholarship to the exclusive Westminster School but was kicked out at 16 after being found with drugs.

MacGowan soon got involved in London’s growing punk scene; his first media appearance was a 1976 photograph showing him covered in blood after having his ear bitten at a Clash concert. Soon after he was on stage himself, as singer and songwriter for punk band The Nipple Erectors. After one album and one single the band fell apart in 1980. The next year MacGowan formed the band Pogue Mahone (a colloquial Irish for Kiss my a**), which was quickly renamed The Pogues. The new band, again with MacGowan as singer and songwriter, mixed punk rhythms with traditional Irish instruments and themes. From a humble beginning playing London pubs, by the mid-1980s, The Pogues became a mainstream success, peaking with the 1987 Christmas single “Fairytale of New York,” where MacGowan sang a duet with Kirsty MacColl, and a few months later their second album, “If I Should Fall From Grace With God.”

Unfortunately, MacGowan’s alcohol and drug abuse were becoming unmanageable. He started failing to turn up for concerts; the band hired Clash frontman Joe Strummer to stand in, then fired MacGowan. He went on to form Shane MacGowan and the Popes but failed to repeat his earlier success. He did return to the reformed Pogues for a string of returns between 2001 and 2014, but by 2015 his health was failing badly. He married journalist Victoria Mary Clarke, his partner for decades, in 2018. On November 30 she announced that MacGowan had died of pneumonia in a Dublin hospital at the age of 65.

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