Farewell to a ballroom trailblazer
TAOISIGH past and present last night led the tributes to Joe Dolan following the sudden death of the hugely-popular singer.
The 68-year-old died in the Mater Hospital in Dublin yesterday afternoon following a suspected brain haemorrhage. He had been taken ill at his home in Foxrock on Christmas night.
"It's a huge shock, he went so quick," former Taoiseach Albert Reynolds said. "We started more or less around the same time in the ballroom business. He was a phenomenon. I haven't known anybody who made the grade so quickly and held onto it for so long. He was a real professional. He always gave the audience what they wanted.
"I never heard anybody saying a bad word about him. Never," he added.
Mr Dolan sold millions of records and had a string of hits around the world in a career which spanned four decades, beginning in the showband era during the early 60s. He continued to tour extensively, only recently cancelling concert dates for the first time in his career after falling ill during a show in Laois in September.
It is understood that Mr Dolan had a medical condition related to his pancreas and was advised to take an extensive rest. He was taken seriously ill on Tuesday night and rushed to the Mater Private Hospital, where he later died.
"Medical sources indicated that Mr Dolan suffered a brain haemorrhage, and, surrounded by his family, lost his battle for life early yesterday afternoon," his manager Seamus Casey said in a statement. "He passed away peacefully."
Funeral arrangements will be announced later.
"It is only a couple of months since I last met Joe and it was always great talking to him," the Taoiseach Bertie Ahern said last night, "He had an amazingly loyal legion of fans in Ireland and abroad, and I know these fans will be saddened to hear of his death and I share their sorrow."
Mr Dolan first came to prominence in 1964 when his Drifters band recorded 'The Answer to Everything'. A string of hits followed, launching a worldwide singing career.
"It is terrible news. Joe had number one hits all over Europe, and was probably the only Irish showband star ever to tour Russia. His death will leave a huge gap in the entertainment scene," said fellow Westmeath man Tony Allen of Foster & Allen.
The popular singer had regained much of his earlier popularity in recent years thanks to albums reworking contemporary hits, and a re-release of his hit 'Good Looking Woman' with Dustin the Turkey, which topped the charts.
"When Joe Dolan tickets went on sale, people started queuing around the corner to get them," RTE presenter Derek Davis recalled.
Dolan's long-serving manager Seamus Casey described him as one of Ireland's greatest musical ambassadors.
One of a family of seven, Mr Dolan is survived by his brothers, Ben -- who played in The Drifters -- Paddy and Vincent, and sisters Dympna and Imelda. His brother James is dead. The Dolan family have been overwhelmed with expressions of sympathy and support. They have also requested privacy.