The Makem & Spain Brothers: The Tradition Continues

Remembering Tommy Makem.

A letter from Danny Doyle
Tommy Liam

"In ancient ireland there existed a learned order of honoured men, the bards, an aristocracy of professional heralds, who were equal in dignity to the king. Their passionate vocation was the preservation of the ancient culture and history. They nurtured the heart & soul of the irish island, and passed down to us a treasure house of poetry, song & tradition. In the telling of their tales they nurtured too the immutable defiance against the invader, prompting one furious english monarch to exclaim, "we shall never conquer ireland while the bards are there." Well, the bards are still there, but the very finest, Tommy makem, has sadly left us.

I grew up in dublin in the 1940's and 50'S. It was a dull, humdrum, colourless & repressive world. I had learned the great ballads of rebellion from my family, but I hungered for more than that. In my teens I developed a craving for a wider canon, a deeper repetoire of Irish Folk song, a longing that was not in the least assuaged by what passed for Irish Folk song on the national radio station.

But all was changed when in the early sixties Tommy Makem sang his way into our consciousness with his charm & exuberance. The integrity of his material drove a stake into the heart of the tin pan alley irish song canon. It isn't quite dead yet, although its days are numbered, for the Tommy never stopped sharpening lyrical weapons on the grinding stone of his muse, to drive through it's silly little heart.

When I first heard Tommy Makem it literally changed my life. I knew then there was real music in the world, that never again would I have to listen to that too-ra-loo-ra-loo-ra pablum.

Tommy makem & The Clancy Brothers were a major force in the irish folk music revival in Ireland & America, a revival that is ongoing and worldwide. He opened the door for myself and a new crop of folk musicians and showed us the way. Indeed you could say he and the clancys colonised america on our behalf. He is a hero who became a friend.

Ae has given us a lifetime of poetry & song. He is a bard in the true tradition for his gifts of imaginative & persuasive language have reflected faithfully the hearts & mind of the irish race.

"And his lobstone keeps beatin' away,"

Thank you tommy,"


Tommy Makem Obituary

by Mick Moloney : New York University

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