Sunday, August 17, 2008

The passing of Ronnie Drew

Today’s media are filled with glowing tributes to Ronnie Drew whose cancer finally caught up on him. Ronnie was 73, but who would have believed he’d survive that long given the alcohol-fuelled and cigarette-fumed lifestyle “enjoyed” by The Dubliners for decades.

Ronnie was a genuine legend in his own lifetime, beloved by several generations of all classes. This despite being an often grumpy git who didn’t suffer fools.

With Ronnie passes the Irish ballad scene, which has been in steady decline since the heyday of the Dubliners. Now it survives in tourist-trap pubs in Ireland and in the thousands of “Irish Bars” throughout the world. Come to think of it – would any of those “Irish Bars” exist today if it wasn’t for the ethos created by the Dubliners?

Let’s hope the many musical tributes we’ll be hearing in the coming week will be Ronnie and the The Dubliners performing, rather than that poxy “Ballad of Ronnie Drew” recently recorded as a tribute by an array of musical “stars”. It’s a cringe-making effort which should now be consigned to the jukebox known as dustbin.

I’m sure Ronnie agrees – “hey Ronnie, knock once if you think I’m wrong.” There, I told you.

The wife was collecting a neighbour from St Vincent’s Private Hospital last Tuesday. While she was waiting, a very sick-looking man was brought through in a wheelchair. When she got home she told me she thought it was Ronnie Drew and, if it was, she didn’t think he was long for this world. Sadly, it looks like she was right – for once.


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