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Funeral Directors and services   -   Tommy Makem

Tommy Makem, who died on 1 August, 2007, aged 74, was a popular folk singer regarded as ‘The Godfather’ of Irish music around the world.His performances on stage usually matched his enthusiasm for promoting Irish culture and by using a trusted banjo and tin whistle he delighted festival crowds on many occasions throughout his 40-year career.Being the son of Irish singer Sarah Makem he was both a solo artist and member of The Clancy Brothers singing group releasing several singles and albums under the name ‘The Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem’.A born performer, Mr Makem secured fame on the American folk scene after being chosen as a promising newcomer while performing at the Newport folk festival in 1961. Over the coming years he made several TV and concert appearances making a name for himself among Irish-Americans.Tomm y Makem was born on 4 November, 1932, in Keady, County Armagh, in Northern Ireland. With his musical roots it wasn’t long before he was focussing upon a full time career as a singer, moving to America in 1955 to fulfil his potential.Holding down a job as a labourer in New Hampshire, an industrial injury forced him to give up this line of work, proving a reliable excuse to further embark on a career as a musician.Moving to New York to join the Clancy brothers in 1956 he recorded his first album, The Rising of The Moon, named after a famous Irish Ballad. With his first record under wraps he held out hope that the singing group would become hugely successful.Following the release of a second album in 1959, the group soon gained a reputation not only for the music they played but also their quirky dress sense regularly performing in Irish Aran knitwear sweaters.A television appearance on American variety programme The Ed Sullivan Show in 1961 was enough to highlight Mr Makem’s obvious talent as a group musician and he soon became a household name with Columbia records keen to help him achieve his dream.As the group’s success got bigger, Mr Makem alone was rewarded with a timely recognition as one of the two most promising acts beside upcoming artist and future star Joan Baez at the Newport folk festival.He released his first solo album entitled The Songs of Tommy Makem in 1961 and was gathering critical acclaim across America.Responding to his success Mr Makem thrived when performing in front of sell-out crowds, expanding a lot more into solo work during the 1960s and 70s after leaving The Clancy Brothers in 1969.He reunited on stage with ex-group member Liam Clancy in 1975 at a festival in Ohio, and the duo continued to tour together until March 1988. However Mr Makem’s musical career was not yet over as he continued to tour as a soloist regularly drawing in crowds across the world.Helping to bring a fresh and alternative approach to Irish folk music he was named amongst the top 100 Irish Americans of the 20th century by the aptly titled Irish America Magazine in December 1999.Also awarded the World Folk Music Association Lifetime Achievement award in the same year, the first ever Tommy Makem International Festival of Song was staged in the summer of 2000 in County Armagh attracting both local and worldwide folk fans.Mr Makem died following a long battle with lung cancer, passing away in the country he became most adored – America.

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Originally printed on August 1, 2007 in the Family Announcements.
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In 1978, I was...

In 1978, I was considering recording "Trinity" by Leon Uris through the Books for the Blind service.. I am an ex-radio announcer and also play and sing, and since I lived a few short miles from Dover NH where Tommy resided, I reasoned I would call him and arrange a time to sit down to learn the proper pronounciation of several Gallic words

Lo and behold, he answered the phone and after a moment or two, I asked him if I could drop by? "Of course." A few short days later I found myself with him, face to face, talking about Ireland.

It wasn't for ten or twenty minutes or even an hour, but for three solid hours that I listened and came to understand in a small way, the powerful history,and complicated story of his native land It was as though I was a nephew and he a wise old uncle. He set me straight about a few things.

There is so much more I would like to say about this powerful voiced, yet gentle spirited man. He made an enormous impression on my life and how I perform to this very day.

God bless you, Tommy.

.

By George Locke on 10 Jun 2009

I first saw Tommy...

I first saw Tommy Makem and the Clancy brothers on the Ed Sullivan show. Being Irish, thought of them as heroes. I really got caught up in their music in the 70s. I never ever dreamed I would see them in person. After moving to S. MD in the late 80s I found out that they frequented the PUBS in DC each year. I was fortunate to see them many many times in person. On one such occasion when Tommy and Liam were together I saw them in concern. Before the concert we were having dinner and they walked in and sat next to us. I couldn't eat my dinner for staring at them. We walked back to the theater and had my picture taken with them. It is still one of my most prized possessions. I just found out tonight at a festival that he died. May he rest in peace. I am sure he is still singing for everyone in heaven and teaching the angels the chorus.

By claire phillips lucy on 02 Mar 2008

I saw Tommy with...

I saw Tommy with Liam Clancy at Irish Fest in Milwaukee many years ago. I met him after the show and we talked about music for a few minutes. I felt honored that such a great musician readily offered his time and advice to an ordinary kid like me! I kept up with music lessons thanks to his kind words and I am forever grateful. Music is a tremendous part of my life and Tommy Makem played a part in that. Thanks, Tommy.

By Matt Chasco on 03 Aug 2007

I saw Tommy perform...

I saw Tommy perform in a stadium full of semi-inebriated revellers at a festival in the early 1990s. He was the last act of the night, and I was worried that the hecklers would turn on him next. He came onto the stage, dressed like a janitor, with nothing but a stool to sit on and his old banjo, and silenced the bawdy crowd before the end of his first song. No one even spoke while he was singing. He had them *mesmerized*. I've never seen anything like it before or since.

Rest ye well, Tommy.

By Kristina Curren on 03 Aug 2007
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Willam Burke
26 Jul 2012
 
Tommy Makem
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