Thursday 21 September 2017

You were a restless spirit, Luke, but we had the rarest of ould times together

A renowned folk singer, Luke Kelly was at heart a frustrated rocker, writes his friend, John Sheahan

Wild Rover: Luke Kelly on O’Connell Bridge, Dublin, in 1980. Photo: Donal Doherty
Wild Rover: Luke Kelly on O’Connell Bridge, Dublin, in 1980. Photo: Donal Doherty

Thirty years after you died, Luke, you continue to soar on wings of song, at ease among the greats. You were gifted, not only with a rare voice — you were a natural interpreter of song. You had that intuitive way of phrasing.

You took us with you on a journey, taking risks, steering a song through its emotions, sometimes lingering on a note that split-second longer than others would dare, before releasing us from the tension and delivering us back to the story, casting a spell till the final note surrendered to silence. Your recordings have become definitive interpretations for new generations of singers who cite you as a major influence.

You were a restless spirit who loved change. A frustrated rock singer, you delighted in the role of Herod in Jesus Christ Superstar. You recorded a Ray Davies’ song, Thank You for the Days, and you were forever singing Beatles' songs in the dressing-room before a concert.

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