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Shane MacGowan, Lead Singer of The Pogues, Passes Away at 65

LONDON (AP) — Shane Macgowan, the lead singer of The Pogues, known for the Christmas ballad “Fairytale of New York,” has died at the age of 65, his family announced on Thursday.

His wife Victoria Clarke, his sister Siobhan and father Maurice said in a statement, “It is with the deepest sorrow and heaviest of hearts that we announce the passing of our most beautiful, darling and dearly beloved Shane Macgowan.”

Macgowan passed away peacefully with his family by his side.

The musician had been hospitalized in Dublin for several months after being diagnosed with viral encephalitis in late 2022. He was discharged last week, ahead of his upcoming birthday on Christmas Day.

The Pogues created a unique blend of Irish traditional music and rock’n’roll. MacGowan was known for his slurred performances and powerful songwriting.

His songs varied from carousing anthems to snapshots of life in the gutter to unexpectedly tender love songs. The Pogues’ most famous song, “Fairytale of New York,” is a bittersweet Christmas classic.

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Sinn Fein President Mary Lou McDonald was among many in Ireland paying tribute to MacGowan.

“Shane was a poet, a dreamer and a champion of social justice,” McDonald said. “Nobody told the Irish story like Shane — stories of emigration, heartache, dislocation, redemption, love and joy.”

Born on Christmas Day 1957 in England to Irish parents, MacGowan spent his early years in rural Ireland before the family moved back to London. He grew up steeped in Irish music absorbed from family and neighbors, along with the sounds of rock, Motown, reggae, and jazz.

He attended the elite Westminster School in London, from which he was expelled, and spent time in a psychiatric hospital after a breakdown in his teens.

MacGowan embraced the punk scene in Britain in the mid-1970s, joining a band called the Nipple Erectors before forming The Pogues.

The Pogues, shortened from the original name Pogue Mahone, fused punk’s furious energy with traditional Irish melodies and instruments including banjo, tin whistle and accordion.

MacGowan wrote many of the band’s songs, with their first album, “Red Roses for Me,” released in 1984.

The band’s output and appearances grew more erratic due in part to MacGowan’s struggles with alcohol and drugs, leading to his firing in 1991.

He then performed with a new band, Shane MacGowan and the Popes, before reuniting with The Pogues in 2001 for a series of concerts and tours.

MacGowan had years of health problems and used a wheelchair after breaking his pelvis a decade ago. In 2015, he received a full set of dental implants after having long been famous for his broken teeth.

MacGowan received a lifetime achievement award from Irish President Michael D. Higgins on his 60th birthday and was celebrated with a concert at the National Concert Hall in Dublin.

Clarke wrote on Instagram, “there’s no way to describe the loss that I am feeling and the longing for just one more of his smiles that lit up my world.”

“I am blessed beyond words to have met him and to have loved him and to have been so endlessly and unconditionally loved by him and to have had so many years of life and love and joy and fun and laughter and so many adventures,” she wrote.

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