Rocker Shane MacGowan, The Pogues Frontman, Dies at 65

NETHERLANDS - JUNE 05: PINKPOP FESTIVAL Photo of Shane MacGOWAN, 05-06-1995 Pinkpop, Shane
Paul Bergen/Redferns/Getty

Shane MacGowan, the hard drinking, hard living, hard singing performer who gave life to punk aspirations with his band The Pogues in the 1980s has died. He was 65.

NPR reports his wife, Victoria Mary Clarke, announced his death Thursday morning. No official cause was provided, but MacGowan had recently left a hospital in Dublin, Ireland, after a diagnosis of encephalitis.

“It is with the deepest sorrow and heaviest of hearts that we announce the passing of our most beautiful, darling and dearly beloved Shane MacGowan,”  Clarke, his sister Siobhan and father Maurice said in a statement.

The lead singer died peacefully with his family by his side, the statement added.

WATCH: The Pogues — Fairytale Of New York (Official Video)

Shane MacGowan was born on Christmas Day in Kent, England, to Irish immigrant parents who moved back to rural Ireland before another return to England.

He attended the elite Westminster School in London, from which he was expelled, and spent time in a psychiatric hospital after a breakdown in his teens.

MacGowan soon embraced the punk scene that exploded in Britain in the mid-1970s before spreading around the world.

File/Members of the Pogues, 11/30/84. Pictured are Shane MacGowan, Cait O’Riordan, Andrew Rankin, Jem Finer, Spider Stacy, James Fearnley. (Steve Rapport/Getty Images)

He joined a band called the Nipple Erectors, performing under the name Shane O’Hooligan, before forming The Pogues alongside musicians including Jem Finer and Spider Stacey, AP reports.

The Pogues — shortened from the original name Pogue Mahone, a rude Irish phrase — brought punk’s furious energy to traditional Irish melodies and instruments including banjo, tin whistle and accordion.

The Pogues – Kirsty Mccall And Shane Macgowan – 1980s  (Brian Rasic/Getty Images)

The songs he wrote melded folk and punk although he became known just as much for his sozzled, slurred performances as for his powerful songwriting. AP set out his musical and performative assets, saying:

His songs blended the scabrous and the sentimental, ranging from carousing anthems to snapshots of life in the gutter to unexpectedly tender love songs.

The Pogues’ most famous song, “Fairytale of New York” is a tale of down-on-their-luck immigrant lovers that opens with the decidedly unfestive words: “It was Christmas Eve, babe, in the drunk tank.”

The duet between the raspy-voiced MacGowan and the velvet tones of the late Kirsty MacColl is by far the most beloved Pogues song in both Ireland and the U.K.

MacGowan had years of health problems and used a wheelchair after breaking his pelvis a decade ago, even then defeating those who saw him passing long before his time came.

“People have given Shane six months to live every year since he’s been 19,” Pogues guitarist Philip Chevron told NPR in 2006.

He was long famous for his broken, rotten teeth until receiving a full set of implants in 2015 from a dental surgeon who described the procedure as “the Everest of dentistry.”

Shane MacGowan performs at The BRIT Awards 1994, Monday 14 February 1994, Alexandra Palace, London, England. (JMEnternational/Getty Images)

Australian singer-songwriter Nick Cave called Shane MacGowan “a true friend and the greatest songwriter of his generation.”

The BBC reports Fairytale of New York producer Steve Lillywhite told BBC Radio 5 Live MacGowan was “truly a poet”, crediting him for inventing “a new style of music that was sort of the punk attitude with traditional Irish rhythms.”

In 2018 he was honoured with a lifetime achievement award at a 60th birthday party in Dublin’s National Concert Hall that saw performers including Bono, Nick Cave, Sinead O’Connor and Johnny Depp, applaud his contributions to music and Ireland.

Shane MacGowan, vocals, performs with the Pogues on December 4th 1990 at Vredenburg in Utrecht, the Netherlands. (Frans Schellekens/Redferns)

A documentary about his life – Crock Of Gold: A Few Rounds With Shane MacGowan – was released in 2020.

He was close friends with Irish singer Sinéad O’Connor who died in July.

Funeral details are yet to be announced by his family.

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