Dubliners' folk hero Drew dies
Ronnie Drew, the lead singer of The Dubliners, the man credited by most as the rebirth of Irish cultural confidence in the 1960s, died yesterday at the age of 73.
He had suffered from bad health for a while, and died peacefully at Dublin's St Vincent's Private Hospital, at around 2pm.
With Drew goes the living embodiment of a modern revival of a traditional movement that still resonates today. The success of the Dubliners, first known as the Ronnie Drew Group, also led to the international success of more fashionable folk groups such as the Waterboys, Hothouse Flowers and the Pogues, with whom Drew performed.
He was born on 16 September in 1934, near Dublin, in the port town of Dun Laoghaire, where he was raised. As a teenager he yearned to live a bohemian life.
So in the mid 1950s he moved to Spain where he spent three years teaching English, learning Spanish and studying Flamenco guitar technique. Once back in Dublin, Drew met up with the late John Molloy, an actor, who persuaded him to perform in a show at Dublin's Gate Theatre. And it was here, Drew claimed, where he honed his stagecraft.
In 1962 the Dubliners emerged from the back room of O'Donoghue's pub on Dublin's Baggot Street and their 1967 single 'Seven Drunken Nights' entered the British Top Ten. Drew was the centrepiece in the classic line up of five bearded men playing guitars, tin whistles, fiddles and a banjo. They tackled songs already known across Ireland, but made them sound distinctive due to Drew's vocals, once described by Mary Kenny as 'proper sawdust Dublin', and the firecracker banjo of his fellow founder member, Barney MacKenna.