Shane MacGowan, The Pogues Frontman, Dead at 65

Shane MacGowan, The Pogues Frontman, Dead at 65

Shane MacGowan, frontman of the Celtic punk band The Pogues, has died. He was 65.

The singer’s wife, Victoria Mary Clarke, announced the tragic news Thursday on Instagram with a touching tribute in which she described him in her caption as “the love of my life and the most beautiful soul and beautiful angel.” She added, “I am blessed beyond words to have met him and to have loved him and to have been so endlessly and unconditionally loved by him and to have had so many years of life and love and joy and fun and laughter and so many adventures.”

Victoria, who spent the better part of three decades as MacGowan’s partner before they tied the knot at Copenhagen City Hall in 2018, signed off, “You meant the world to me.”

MacGowan’s death comes just days after he was discharged from the hospital where he was being treated for encephalitis, inflammation of the brain, for which he had been diagnosed last year.

MacGowan and The Pogues are best known for their 1987 hit, “Fairytale of New York.” Just recently, Travis Kelce and his brother, Jason Kelce, collaborated on a track they dubbed “Fairytale of Philadelphia,” a remake of The Pogues’ festive classic. The Kelce brothers’ remake — off the Philadelphia Eagles’ A Philly Special Christmas Special album — features lyrics written by Travis and Jason, who tell the “tale of two brothers whose love for each other withstands the test of time.”

The Pogues’ version tells the tale of an Irish immigrant spending Christmas Eve sleeping off a bender in a drunk tank. After the Kelce brothers released the track, MacGowan chimed in on X and gave the NFL brothers a shout-out, tweeting, “Tell them I am knocked out.”

According to U.K. journalist Richard Balls’ biography on MacGowan, A Furious Devotion: The Life of Shane MacGowan, the singer-songwriter was born on Christmas Day in 1957 in the U.K. and the son of Irish émigré parents. He would later be introduced to future Pogues member Peter “Spider” Stacy at a gig for the Ramones at the Roadhouse in London in 1977. At that point, MacGowan was a one-man band known as The Nips, which was derived after he had his ear bitten off while attending a gig for The Clash.

He would ultimately join The Pogues in the mid-1980s, and his first composition for the Celtic punk band was “Steams of Whiskey.” The band’s full name Pogue Mahone was, according to The Independent, an anglicization of the Irish Gaelic phrase for “kiss my arse.”

MacGowan’s drug use in the past is also well documented. He was once kicked out of a prestigious London school after he was caught selling drugs to other students, and he was only 17 when he had his first stint in rehab. The drugs and heavy drinking took a toll on MacGowan, who nearly drank himself to death in his 20s. The substance abuse — coupled with biting into a vinyl copy of The Beach Boys Greatest Hits, Volume 3 — caused damage to his teeth, the last of two which came out in 2008. But a gargantuan, nine-hour effort in 2015 to fit him with a set of new teeth — as documented in the documentary Shane MacGowan: A Wreck Reborn — gave him new life.

But by then the substance abuse had weakened MacGowan, whose biographer recalled meeting him for the first time at a London bistro in 2012. According to the author, via Rolling Stone, MacGowan showed up to the interview in terrible shape. The author noted MacGowan wasn’t drunk but his motor skills were kaput, so much so that he had to help MacGowan light his cigarette.

Then there was MacGowan’s bathroom break, which was so long that the author was forced to go look for the rock star, only to find him locked in a stall and he couldn’t get out. But even then, the author was captivated by MacGowan.

“It’s clear that I am in the company of a highly intelligent, extremely well-read man, with an encyclopedic knowledge of pretty much everything,” the author recalled in the biography’s prologue. “There are moments of irascibility, but overall, Shane is good company.”

MacGowan is survived by his wife, Victoria.


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