Monday, December 7, 2009

Liam Clancy – the last of the Clancy Brothers passes away

“I never heard a singer as good as Liam ever. He was just the best ballad singer I’d ever heard in my life. Still is, probably.” –Bob Dylan, 1984

Liam Clancy, the last of the Clancy Brothers, in fact, the last of the Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem, the Irish group that introduced me – and most folkies of my generation – to Irish folk music, passed away on Friday at age 74 after a long battle with pulmonary fibrosis.

I still love the old Clancy Brothers & Tommy Makem albums from the 1960s, but my favourites are the intimate and beautiful duo albums – Tommy Makem & Liam Clancy, Two for the Early Dew, and The Makem & Clancy Collection – that Liam and Tommy recorded in the 1970s.

And like so many others on hearing the news of Liam’s passing, I’m reminded of “The Parting Glass,” a traditional Irish folk song that Liam sang so beautifully (and which Dylan used as his template for “Restless Farewell”).

The Parting Glass (traditional)

Of all the money e'er I had,
I spent it in good company.
And all the harm I've ever done,
Alas! it was to none but me.
And all I've done for want of wit
To mem'ry now I can't recall
So fill to me the parting glass
Good night and joy be with you all

Oh, all the comrades e'er I had,
They're sorry for my going away,
And all the sweethearts e'er I had,
They'd wish me one more day to stay,
But since it falls unto my lot,
That I should go and you should not,
I gently rise and softly call,
Good night and joy be with you all.

If I had money enough to spend,
And leisure time to sit awhile,
There is a fair maid in this town,
That sorely has my heart beguiled.
Her rosy cheeks and ruby lips,
I own she has my heart in thrall,
Then fill to me the parting glass,
Good night and joy be with you all.

--Mike Regenstreif

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