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Tommy Makem & Liam Clancy

Folk singer Tommy Makem is one part storyteller, one part musician, one part singer, and one part actor, so his live shows are usually quite lively and engaging, especially since he has spent more than five decades in folk music. A typical Makem concert involves traditional and contemporary Irish tunes performed on banjo and tin whistle, with a bit of background on each song's history as well.

Makem was born and raised in Keady, County Armagh, Ireland, and got much of his musical education from his mother, Sarah Makem, herself a legendary folk singer and an ethnomusicologist before the term was coined. The songs Makem learned from his mother provided the foundation for his later efforts with the Clancy Brothers and his work as a duo with Liam Clancy.

As a young man, Makem most wanted to become an actor, so he moved to New York in the mid-'50s. He began singing professionally in New York one night in 1956 when he was asked to sing at Greenwich Village's Circle in the Square Theater. After receiving $30 for singing just a few folk songs, he was hooked. Makem began hanging out with Pete Seeger and the other members of the Weavers in 1956, when he first saw them perform.

In the late '50s, Makem teamed up with Tom, Liam, and Paddy (Patrick) Clancy to form the Clancy Brothers with Tommy Makem. The group made its professional debut at Circle in the Square Theater in the Village and was signed to Columbia Records by talent scout John Hammond in 1961. By then, folk music had come into fashion in a big way. Makem frequently shared festival bills with Seeger, Bob Dylan, and other beacons of the acoustic movement. At the 1961 Newport Folk Festival, Makem and Joan Baez were chosen as the two most promising newcomers to the American folk music scene. After playing to sell-out audiences at Carnegie Hall in the early '60s, the Clancy Brothers with Tommy Makem made appearances throughout the '60s on major TV shows like Ed Sullivan, The Tonight Show, Arthur Godfrey's Talent Scouts, and other programs. Makem originals like "Four Green Fields," "Gentle Annie," "The Rambles of Spring," "The Winds Are Singing Freedom," and "Farewell to Carlingford" have since become Irish folk music standards, performed around the world.

In 1975, realizing he was forever bumping into his old friend and partner Liam Clancy on the road, Makem and Clancy decided to pair up for a show in Cleveland, OH. The audience response was enough to convince both that they needed each other, and for the next dozen years the two often toured together. The pair earned platinum and gold records in Ireland.

Makem's albums (aside from those with the Clancy Brothers) are available on his own Red Biddy label. His sons, the Makem Brothers, are carrying on the Irish folk music tradition by running the label and performing at folk festivals around the U.S. and Ireland. Makem's solo albums from the late '60s and early '70s include Tommy Makem and Love Is Lord of All on GWP Records. His more recent '90s recordings include From the Archives for Shanachie Records and Ancient Pulsing, an album of his poetry. Makem has also been involved in numerous television projects over the years, presenting Irish traditional music to the masses, mostly on public TV. Based in Dover, NH, Makem continued to record and perform until his death from lung cancer on August 1, 2007. ~ Richard Skelly, Rovi
full bio

Selected Discography

Comments

rbeach88
I am just getting into the Irish music. If I look deep enough I could see the Irish heritage in my boiling, red blood.
Great
Keg Room, Spfld MA, late 1970s. Tommy rocked
Tis a grande song
It seems like all of the bst are passing away. Wewill miss hem greatly!
these is my one of my fac songs
Love it seen em live and da make ya laugh so hard specialy when ya drunk and stoned they have ya sing wit em and i got to dance wit a pretty girl on stage never meet her before they just pulled us on stage
Wonderous music fer da drinkin irish and drunkin souls does me heart good to feel at home once again
jmsmith39
I saw Makem and Clancy live in Ireland in1979. One of my fondest memories.
I love the 'rocky road to dublin'
the best
They were great. RIP
They were the best
The most famous along with the Dubliners. Love both groups, and I love Ireland.
I saw Tommy Makem for the first time at an Irish festival in Pittsburgh in 2000. Just him, playing his five-string banjo. He was great!
I grew up listening to music like this- Darby O'Gill and such- even though my family's been out of Ireland for more than a few generations. I mean, I knew all the words to Whiskey In The Jar by the time I was two. I was so happy when I found Makem and Clancy on here, and a few other of my favorite Irish folks, so thanks Pandora!
My grandmother had me listening to Makem and Clancy growing up. Love them
Great song
I love the story of the song.
I love listening to Tommy and Liam, drinking an ice cold Guinness!!!
Thanks boys!!!
Marty
i love listenning to irish drinkin' songs ... i haven't relly drank anything much stronger than root beer, i don't think root beer counts as a drinkin' song type drink, but they're fun songs none the less :-)
_____,
Tom
this music...nuff said
nunnayobiz42 0
interesting, kayakev34... w e share the same story... :) some of the best musical talents, ever, IMO.... we've been blessed....
Grew up hearing the Clancys after church on Sundays, my father instilled their music in us , Kevin
my parents went to ireland for their 25th anniv. came back loving the clancy bros
I had the honor of opening for Tommy at O'Flaherty's in New Orleans back in the day. Nicest man, so sad to see him go. Rory accompanied him and was still living at home, that's how long ago it was.
I love what the Makem Brothers are doing to bring the tradition into the 21st century.
I was visiting Dublin when I read about Tommy's passing in the newspaper. I was shocked when I found that he was not well known to the younger Irish folk. I held my own private wake for him at Gogarty's.
Liam was a tremendous influence on Irish and folk music. The end of an era with his passing.
joeandmartin a
the world lost a great musician when Tommy passed. My wife met him a few months before his passing. She asked him what he did for work...he replied. "I'm a folk singer". No ego, no pretense.
Captain kangaroo

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