Shane MacGowan has died aged 65

 Shane MacGowan
Shane MacGowan

Former Pogues frontman Shane MacGowan has died at the age of 65, his wife Victoria Mary Clarke has announced in a post on Instagram.

The Irishman was being treated in St Vincent's hospital, Dublin, but was released a week ago.

Her post reads: “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.

“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.

“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. Rave on in the garden all wet with rain that you loved so much. You meant the world to me.”

MacGowan, who was best known for hit festive song Fairytale Of New York, had been due to celebrate his 66th birthday on Christmas Day.

Who was Shane MacGowan?

Singer Shane MacGowan was best known as the front man of the Pogues, the punk band who recorded the Christmas classic Fairytale of New York with Kirsty MacColl.

Born on Christmas Day 1957 in Kent to Irish parents, MacGowan was influenced by his Irish heritage and immersed in literature and music. He lived in Co Tipperary for a short time as a child and as a young teenager won a literary prize and then a scholarship to Westminster School.

Punk and The Pogues singer

Art college beckoned but music had his heart and MacGowan found his community in the punk scene that exploded in 1976. He joined his first band, the Nipple Erectors, in the same year and they enjoyed success as the opening act for The Clash and The Jam but his style of music was evolving and the end result was Irish punk act the Pogues. The band had several incarnations - the Republicans, then Pogue Mahone and finally the Pogues.

English musician and singer Peter “Spider” Stacy has paid tribute to his fellow bandmate Shane MacGowan, sharing an image of him performing on a stage.

Taking to X, formerly Twitter, Stacy wrote: “‘O Captain! My Captain! Our fearful trip is done..'”

The line was accompanied by a black and white image of MacGowan smiling on stage.

Stacy co-founded The Pogues along with MacGowan, Jem Finer and James Fearnley and appeared on all of their recordings.

Singer Shane MacGowan has been in hospital receiving care in summer 2023. Picture by Niall Carson, PA
Singer Shane MacGowan has been in hospital receiving care in summer 2023. Picture by Niall Carson, PA

Fairytale of New York with Kirsty MacColl

Success followed with albums such as Rum, Sodomy and the Lash but it was a track he co-wrote called Fairytale of New York that brought the band international acclaim.

MacGowan said it was the result of a wager with Elvis Costello who had claimed MacGowan could not write a Christmas song. Released in 1987 it was an instant favourite and continues to top polls of Christmas classics.

The song is a call and response between MacGowan and Kirsty MacColl and the video was filmed in New York by director Peter Dougherty with actor Matt Dillon playing a police officer.

It is the most played Christmas song of the 21st century in the UK.

Read more:How The Pogues and Kirsty MacColl created a Christmas classic

Shane MacGowan and substance abuse

Elvis Costello produced Rum, Sodomy and the Lash and in a 2022 interview with The Times said he had drank "quite enthusiastically myself" but that "Shane [MacGowan] was in a different league".

"I was responsible for coherent versions of those songs, so each time Shane opened another bottle in the morning, I knew I only had a certain amount of time left," he added.

Albums that followed included If I Should Fall From Grace with God (which included Fairytale of New York); Peace and Love and Pogue Mahone as well as a number of compilations. MacGowan created the cover for the first Pogues album, 1984’s Red Roses for Me, as well as the Popes’ 1997 Crock of Gold.

Australian musician and singer Nick Cave and Shane MacGowan perform together – they sang Pogues' classic Summer In Siam – on Monday night
Australian musician and singer Nick Cave and Shane MacGowan perform together – they sang Pogues' classic Summer In Siam – on Monday night

A Rainy Night in Soho

Fairytale of New York and Rainy Night in Soho are the two hits the Pogues are most known for and Shane MacGowan says he regrets that handfuls of other songs he wrote are less well appreciated.

He told RTÉ Radio’s Sunday with Miriam that he had stopped guests singing A Rainy Night in Soho at his wedding, despite it being one of his wife's favourites.

“I’m sick to death of it,” he said. “What annoys me about [it] is that people just concentrate on that and Fairytale of New York. I’ve written hundreds of songs, I write them all.”

Shane MacGowan's health

MacGowan used a wheelchair since 2015 after injuring himself in a fall and spent time in hospital in 2022 and 2023.

Marriage to wife Victoria Mary Clarke

In 2018, MacGowan married his partner of 30 years, journalist Victoria Mary Clarke. The couple tied the knot in a small ceremony in Copenhagen in Denmark in front of guests including Johnny Depp.

Shane MacGowan and Victoria Mary Clarke on their wedding day in November 2018
Shane MacGowan and Victoria Mary Clarke on their wedding day in November 2018

Read more: Pogues star Shane MacGowan marries partner of more than 30 years

How old was Shane MacGowan?

Shane died aged 65. He would have been 66 on Christmas Day 2023. He threw a party for his 60th birthday and performed with the likes of Bono, Nick Cave, Bobby Gillespie of Primal Scream, Glen Matlock of The Sex Pistols and Clem Burke of Blondie.

It was at this gig in Dublin's National Concert Hall that Belfast DJ and producer David Holmes met Irish singer Sinead O'Connor and the pair began to make music together.

Read more:

  • David Holmes recalls 'magical' experience working with Sinéad O'Connor and the time she lived in his Belfast house
  • Review: Shane MacGowan's birthday bash a fitting tribute to a great of Irish music
  • A Fairytale of how The Pogues frontman Shane MacGowan and Kirsty MacColl created a Christmas classic

In 2021/22 Shane MacGowan published an art book, The Eternal Buzz and the Crock of Gold.

Shane MacGowan and Bruce Springsteen (Image: Twitter/Victoria Mary Clarke)
Shane MacGowan and Bruce Springsteen (Image: Twitter/Victoria Mary Clarke)

Bruce Springsteen and Shane MacGowan

Earlier this year Bruce Springstreen visited Shane MacGowan ahead of his Dublin concerts.

Speaking in an interview on The Late Late Show two years ago, he described Shane MacGowan as “a master”.

“I truly believe that a hundred years from now, most of us will be forgotten. But I do believe that Shane's music is going to be remembered and sung. It's just deep in the nature of it.

"So he's a master, for me, and I've a deep, deep appreciation of his work and working with The Pogues."

The late, great Shane MacGowan
The late, great Shane MacGowan