Watching Luke Kelly
I’ve recently been spending a lot of time on YouTube watching Luke Kelly, the great Irish ballad singer, front man of the Dubliners. Luke died in 1984 and I’ve never been able to figure out if I met him. I might have, much of those days is in a haze for me. He might have been in and out of the scene I was involved in in the late 70s and early 80s. The Dubliners never crossed my radar until recently, when I accidentally came across a video of The Auld Triangle and was amazed. Luke sang with a unusually strong, clear, and completely unadorned voice. Always on key, never going off pitch, you could hear him across town without a sound system. The get older I get the more I find myself being turned off by vocal gymnastics and obvious music school tricks. I want to hear the song sung by a human being for other human beings to hear. And that’s where Luke comes in, for me.
The Auld Triangle was written by Brendan Behan for a play called “The Quare Fellow.” The term “quare fellow” refers to a condemned prisoner, soon to executed. I think it’s old prison slang. Here’s Luke Kelly and the Dubliners doing that song: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aa7birRBmNM
Here’s an interesting one from an Irish TV show, don’t know what the name was. Here’s from the YouTube description: “Luke Kelly explains how he met Patrick Kavanagh in The Bailey pub in Dublin. During this encounter Kavanagh told him he had a song for him. First broadcast 10/01/1979.” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gYJO5fJgNSQ
And this is a great documentary, only a few years old. Lots of good stuff here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fzfswNa7ZTk
Every once in a while when you walk around Dublin, or Cork, or Galway, you’ll see a 12 or 13 year old boy singing a cappella on the walking street. Sometimes an older brother watches from a short distance away, just in case. And you’ll be amazed at the clear and strong singing that comes from such a young voice. There is a direct line to Luke Kelly.