There has always been something special about Shane MacGowan. From the unique hissing sound of his laugh to the sheer miracle of his longevity, Shane has always been different. Of course, he is touched with musical and poetic genius and that is why we love him most. Whatever that undefinable x factor is, MacGowan possess it in spades. Despite the decades of extreme substance abuse which has dimmed his light to a mere flicker these days, his influence remains undoubtable. There is so much more to his story than Fairy-tale of New York and a bottle of gin. McGowan's life has been a traumatic one and as with all genius, demons have lurked in full view since day one. Some Irish people prefer to focus on those demons rather than the simple beauty of his music. For those people, I feel sorry. McGowan and the Pogues resurrected Irish music in the 80's. They reinvigorated our traditional sound and brought it to a new audience all across the world. This audience quickly became a movement amongst the Irish diaspora, particularly in London. MacGowan was every inch the Rockstar, and became the face of the Irish abroad. His 'up yours' attitude to the British establishment made him a cult hero over night, and with it brought fame that fed his demons more so than his genius.
The stereotype of the Irishman who emigrated to Britain and the USA in the 70's and 80's is one strongly linked to alcohol, poverty and a lack of education. The people who left Ireland in those days did so out of pure necessity. They used what skills they had in order to find work and provide for their families. Any fault for this serotype does not lie at their door, but at the door of our nation's Government. The country could not provide a sustainable future for those generations or with opportunities to better themselves. For that simple reason, millions of our people were forced to emigrate to countries in search of low paid jobs. The modern day Irish emigrant travels abroad with a list full of qualifications and the promise of prosperity. This was not the case when MacGowan and his family left Tipperary, and that is an important point to remember. The stereotype of the drunken Irishman is one which modern Ireland wants to distance herself from as much as possible. MacGowan remains the face of that stereotype, and it is for this reason that his relationship with parts of the Irish public has become strained in recent years. However, to blame MacGowan for his lifelong battle with addiction is beyond symptomatic of small thinking backwater Betties who've not contributed one grain of rice to Irish culture. Of course, we'd all have loved if Shane gained control of his drinking at some point over the last twenty years but it was simply not to be. He will always be treated as a Rockstar and for that reason it was never on the cards. For us, we'd rather focus on the positives of his life, and how he will live forever through his music.
Shane himself has documented how traumatic it was being pulled from the tranquillity of his childhood in Tipperary and dumped in the concrete jungle of London. He struggled to adapt to his new surroundings and it was in his formative years that his addictions took hold. Being Irish in London wasn't easy in those days. We all know about the famous signs that were hung in shop windows. I refuse to even type the words. MacGowan was bullied mercilessly at school, until he found a crew of associates who helped him dish out some retribution to those who'd inflicted such misery on him. They would also introduce him to the world of buying and selling drugs, a skill he brought with him to the high-brow Westminster school. Shane had won a scholarship to attend through his excellent literary work, it didn't last long, however, he was kicked out by 14 and started working in a supermarket soon after. Problems at home between his parents led him down the path of harder drugs. Shanes mental state deteriorated to the point where he was committed to the drug ward in Bedlam. His life as we know it truly began upon his release. Shane soon became fascinated with the punk scene which was engulfing London and soon it became his mission to return Irish music to its rightful place. Especially amongst the thousand's of dissociated young Irish who were living in London at the time. The rest as they say is history.
When Shane MacGowan's days draw to a close he will be remembered for many things, of that there is no doubt. He has lived the life of a Rockstar to the absolute maximum. He wrote and performed some of the most most iconic music ever associated with our island. (A Rainy Night in Soho, our personal favourite). He breath life into Irish music at a time when it needed it most, and his love for everything Irish is as strong today as it was when he first left Tipperary. MacGowan is a legend, and this must not be forgotten. In Ireland there will always be people who fail to see the bigger picture. You know who I'm talking about, we all know people like that. Of course, I'd of loved to see Shane pull himself back from the abyss but it's not his destiny in this life. His destiny was set before he took his first breath, and we must respect that fact while we still have him with us. Not in thirty or forty years, like we do with most of our other great characters throughout history. His legacy is set in stone, a musician and a poet. Up there with the best we've ever produced.
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