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Pogues Frontman Shane MacGowan Dies Aged 65

1 December 2023 | 12:00 am | Stephen Green

The celtic punk hitmaker passed away after being recently hospitalised with ill health.

Shane MacGowan

Shane MacGowan (Credit: Andrew Catlin)

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The music world is in mourning with the news of Pogues vocalist Shane MacGowan’s passing. Known for his Celtic punk hits, including Fairytale Of New York and The Irish Rover, MacGowan was equally famous for his struggles with addiction and excess.

The news was broken by MacGowan’s wife, Victoria Mary Clarke, via Instagram.

She wrote: "I don’t know how to say this so I am just going to say it. Shane who will always be the light that I hold before me and the measure of my dreams and the love ❤️ of my life and the most beautiful soul and beautiful angel and the sun and the moon and the start and end of everything that I hold dear has gone to be with Jesus and Mary and his beautiful mother Therese.

“There’s no way to describe the loss that I am feeling and the longing for just one more of his smiles that lit up my world. Thank you thank you thank you thank you for your presence in this world you made it so very bright and you gave so much joy to so many people with your heart and soul and your music. You will live in my heart forever.”

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A statement from MacGowan's spokesperson confirmed he "died peacefully at 3.30am this morning (30 November) with his wife and sister by his side. Prayers and the last rites were read during his passing.”

MacGowan was recently in hospital with encephalitis but was discharged on November 22.

The Pogues were founded in London’s Kings Cross in 1982 and signed their first record deal in 1984 after supporting The Clash. Their first album turned heads in the underground scene, but their second album, Rum Sodomy & The Lash, produced by Elvis Costello, was their breakthrough, cracking the UK's top 20 for the first time.

MacGowan’s erratic behaviour and substance abuse came to the fore, with the band’s career going through a rough period before hitting their commercial peak with 1998’s If I Should Fall From Grace With God. Their duet with Kirsty MacColl, Fairytale Of New York, was their biggest hit, reaching #2 in the UK and becoming their biggest hit in Australia, peaking at #45.

Despite the band’s success, MacGowan’s behaviour derailed their plans, failing to turn up for the opening dates of their American tour in 1988 and refusing to promote their 1990 album Hell’s Ditch, so the band sacked him in 1991 after a chaotic live performance in Japan.

After many years performing as Shane MacGowan and The Popes, he rejoined The Pogues in 2001, touring until 2009. In 2006, he was voted 50th on the NME Rock Heroes List, but his addiction issues continued, including problems with binge drinking and heroin.

He fractured his pelvis in 2015 in a fall while leaving a studio, and his health continued to deteriorate despite being in 2016 his wife revealing that he was sober for the first time in years.

MacGowan leaves a rich catalogue of music and a rare punk rock legacy.