Ronnie Drew (1934 to 2008)
On the day that marks 31 years since Elvis died, the music world stamps another black mark on August 16th with the news that Ronnie Drew, one of the founding members of Irish folk relics The Dubliners, today lost his long battle with throat cancer.
1962 saw Drew form the Ronnie Drew Group, a group who would later come to be known as The Dubliners. Some 15 years before The Pogues would inject punk rock snarl into traditional Irish music, The Dubliners brought it to the fore. Had it not been for The Dubliners and The Chieftains, it is unlikely that we would ever have seen Shane MacGowan's gums - or rather, it is unlikely we would ever have heard The Pogues. The Dubliners broke down barriers for Irish musicians.
Drew, however, decided to leave The Dubliners in 1974, although he would return in 1979 before leaving again in 1995 to focus on the solo career he began upon his first departure. Late 2006 saw Drew contract throat cancer for which he would undergo extensive therapy. Despite this, he still saw fit to make occasional live and TV appearances including a cameo on the Dropkick Murphy's 2007 album, "The Meanest of Times".
Earlier this year a whole host of recognised musicians recorded "The Ballad of Ronnie Drew", a single for the Irish Cancer Society, in recognition of his importance to Irish music. The single itself was intended to feature Drew, but his failing health forbade his presence. Irish and non-Irish alike contributed to the recording in tribute to a man who gave his life to bringing people together through music.
Just like Luke Kelly before him, the utter of his name will provoke great conversation among lovers of folk music and he will be greatly missed. The Dubliners celebrated the music of their homeland. Now it's for us to celebrate the life of Ronnie Drew.
Author: Peter McGee
August 18, 2008
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