Dubliners singer Ronnie Drew dies at 73

 

Dubliners singer Ronnie Drew has died following a long illness at the age of 73.

Drew, originally from Dun Laoghaire, had been an iconic figure on the traditional music scene in Ireland for over five decades.

He died at St Vincent's Private Hospital in Dublin at 2pm today, according to a statement released by the hospital on behalf of the family.

Drew founded the then-Ronnie Drew Group in 1962 which later came to be known as The Dubliners.

The group included fellow Irish music legends Luke Kelly, Ciaran Bourke and Barney McKenna.

They emerged from back room sessions in the O’Donoghues Pub in Dublin to become world-renowned.

While Kelly was known for singing their soulful ballads, Drew will be best remembered for his gravelly-voiced renditions of rabble-rousing folk songs, like Finnegan’s Wake and Dicey Reilly.

Drew sang one of the band’s biggest commercial hits, when they entered the UK top 10 in 1967 with Seven Drunken Nights and appeared on the BBC’s Top of the Pops.

In 1995 they appeared once again on the show with Shane McGowan and the Pogues, who performed with Drew on their single The Irish Rover.

Taoiseach Brian Cowen led the tributes to the singer today, saying his unique singing voice was loved and admired by many people.

Mr Cowen said: “Ronnie, whether as part of The Dubliners, or during his solo career, will also be remembered for his promotion of Irish music both at home and around the world.

“He bore his illness with bravery and will be sadly missed," he added.

In a statement on U2’s official website, Bono said Drew has left his earthly tour for one of the heavens.

“Music to inspire, to console... an optimism that was contagious... that’s what U2 took from The Dubliners,” he said.

“Ronnie has left his earthly tour for one of the heavens... they need him up there... it’s a little too quiet and pious.

“God is lonely for a voice louder than His own.”

Earlier this year, U2, Sinead O’Connor, Shane McGowan, Christy Moore and others came together to record a tribute to the singer, called The Ballad Of Ronnie Drew.

All profits from the release of the single went to the Irish Cancer Society.

Speaking at the time of the recording, U2 frontman Bono said: “Ronnie is like the King of Ireland, and we are his subjects.

“This is a big fight for him. But like any fighter, it’s easier if there’s a crowd cheering.”

Additional reporting by PA