Friday 17 January 2020

'I have been very lucky in my life, I really have' - Larry Gogan

Larry Gogan wanted to die with his boots on and also said how he would like to be remembered, writes Niamh Horan

Larry Gogan died on Tuesday aged 85. Photo: RTE/PA
Larry Gogan died on Tuesday aged 85. Photo: RTE/PA
So long: Larry Gogan. Photo: RollingNews.ie
DJs pose with cars in a shot taken for the 'RTE Guide' circa 1982. Jimmy Greeley is standing at the back. From left to right in the front are: Larry Gogan, Marty Whelan, Gerry Ryan, Lorcan Murray and Jim O'Neill. Photo: RTÉ Stills Library
Gogan, with his wife Florrie, who died in 2002
Broadcasting legend Larry Gogan. Photo: Mark Condren
Mr Gogan had been in broadcasting for almost 60 years (RTE/PA)
Larry Gogan has been remembered at his funeral mass in Dublin (Damien Eagers/PA)
Mr Gogan pictured in 2007 after winning a Meteor Music Award (PA)

Last autumn, while we were making small talk, a taxi driver casually mentioned that he had recently taken Larry Gogan for dialysis treatment.

We had been sharing war stories about well-known people who could be difficult. The taxi driver said he'd had a number of those in the back of his cab, but Larry was a "true gent".

Unaware until then that Ireland's most famous DJ was ill, I arranged an interview in the following days that would turn out to be his last.

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It took a long time that August morning to get to the area planned for our chat. Not because of Larry's recently acquired walking frame, but due to the number of colleagues who stopped him to banter and chat.

Before we even sat down, I could see the sort of person he was by his kindness to people, and in how they responded to him.

As he opened up over tea and custard creams, the first thing he said was that he was "the longest here - apart from Gay".

Six months later, they both would be gone but Larry was adamant that day that he wanted to die with his boots on.

"I don't think I'll ever retire," he said.

He had already spoken to RTE bosses and during a meeting with them after starting his treatment, he recalled how they told him: "We don't care if you crawl in - once you can talk."

It was a testament to his legendary status. Not many 85-year-olds are still going strong on radio and Montrose knew when to hold on to a good asset.

As Dave Fanning said last week: "Larry Gogan's voice was still perfect, as smooth as a billiard ball - even after almost 60 years on the air."

Equally as pure was his intention not to pander to the mob. While a number of radio presenters made headlines for censoring classic hits deemed politically incorrect for this hyper-aware generation, Gogan refused point-blank to give credence to what he called "a whole load of nonsense".

He said no amount of outrage would stop him playing a good tune. Kids these days, he felt, "read [too much] into it when it's just meant to be a pop song".

But he still knew what they wanted.

I'm ashamed to admit I had to turn to Google afterwards to find out what he meant by Post Malone - he's an American rapper - and I was almost 50 years younger than Larry was then.

And he was able to pinpoint the biggest selling record since 1982 up until last year - the poptastic Latin American hit by Luis Fonsi featuring Daddy Yankee, Despacito.

Before that, it was Elvis, the man who had held Larry spellbound as a child, and his earliest music memory.

Larry recalled sitting by the radio mesmerised and listening to the presenter line up the Elvis track while dreaming of a golden future.

"That's what I'd like to do," he thought.

Music, they say, is a fast track to emotions and Elvis was the one who got him in the craw. Which hit?

"His romantic one... Always On My Mind."

Which brought us to Florrie.

Gogan-and-wife.jpg
Larry Gogan with his late wife and ‘love of his life’ Florrie

After 39 years of marriage and five children, he lamented that he had been robbed of the opportunity to say a final goodbye but there was a lifetime of memories to make up for it.

We joked that she had saved him from the #metoo age because he had been unwaveringly loyal - another admirable quality in a business where groupies were just part of the package as he worked from his 20s to become a household name.

Of all the times he shared with Florrie, his stand-out memory was the day they married.

"I can still see her coming towards me up the aisle with her father," he said.

"I never thought I would see the day."

Which prompted him to say the most anyone could hope to utter at the end of a long life: "I have been very lucky in my life, I really have..."

A small piece of advice he would like to share with others came from what he'd learned on the airwaves - "I think it's just to always be yourself. People will always spot if you are putting it on."

It's perhaps why he became so good at what he did.

We talked for a while about grief and death and his complete certainty that he would one day see Florrie again, and before we parted, he also shared how he would like to be remembered when he is gone.

"That I played some good tunes - and brought a lot of happiness to people," he said.

The nation could testify to that.

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