Northern Ireland news

Bap Kennedy tributes - remembered as 'one of Ireland's greatest musicians'

Paul Ainsworth

A FORMER bandmate of Bap Kennedy has said he will be recognised as "one of Ireland’s greatest musicians", as tributes continued to roll in for the singer-songwriter.

Martin ‘Bap’ Kennedy died on Tuesday aged 54 following a battle with pancreatic cancer, leaving behind his beloved wife Brenda.

The west Belfast native – a brother of fellow singer Brian Kennedy – first found fame as frontman of rock act Energy Orchard in the early 1990s. Brian revealed in September that he is also battling cancer.

They toured with acts including Belfast blues king Van Morrison, and following the band’s split Bap continued to collaborate with major names including Mark Knopfler of Dire Straights and folk rocker Steve Earle.

All three paid tribute to Bap on learning of his passing.

“Bap was loved by both fans and musicians in equal measure,” Van Morrison said.

In a statement to the Irish News, Knopfler spoke fondly of his time recording and touring with his friend and collaborator.

“This is such sad news. Bap was an extremely talented and committed songwriter who applied himself to his craft at all times,” he said.

“I have nothing but happy memories of our days and nights in the studio and out on the road.”

Mark Knopfler. PA photos

Steve Earle said: "He was a great songwriter, a take-no-prisoners performer and one of the nicest guys I ever knew. I will miss him very much."

Belfast's 'godfather of punk' Terri Hooley, whose Good Vibrations label released a record with Bap's first band, 10 Past 7, said he knew even then that he would be someone to watch.

"He was a very talented and genuine person," he said.

"Bap came back and played a gig at my last record store - he was a great performer and a friend. It's a sad time but he leaves a great legacy."

Steve Earle 

And former Energy Orchard bandmate Kevin Breslin said he believed Bap would join the long list of musical greats to have hailed from Ireland and inspired fans and fellow artists at home and far beyond the island’s shores.

“Bap was a shining star who exuded a lot of energy; it’s apt that our band was called Energy Orchard,” he said.

“I knew him from around the age of 17 and I will always cherish the memories of our times together as bandmates, and as friends. He was a flower full of nectar, and I think he will be recognised as one of Ireland’s greatest musicians when the history books are written.”

A notice on his Facebook page on Wednesday announced the sad news of his death: "We are devastated to announce that Bap passed away this evening.

"Bap was extremely brave until the end.

"We would like to thank everybody for their kind messages of support over the past few months, these meant a lot to Bap and Brenda and helped Bap stay positive throughout his illness.

"We are also extremely grateful to all the staff at the Marie Curie hospice for their kindness and warmheartedness during his stay."

Irish News columnist and radio presenter Ralph McLean said Bap Kennedy was "one of the good guys."

He said: "I honestly believe there was nobody quite like Bap. His music always makes me cry. He was a one-off. He is a Belfast boy who had his music acknowledged right around the world.

"He was a very witty guy and a very loyal friend. It is such sad news but the suffering for Bap is over."

Singer Kaz Hawkins wrote on Twitter: "Just hearing the sad news that Bap Kennedy has passed away tonight. R.I.P a Belfast songwriting legend."

Joby Fox, who worked with Kennedy in Energy Orchard, wrote on Facebook : "We took on the world together and for a moment we had it in our hands. I'll miss you but I'll see you again."

In what was his final blog post, Kennedy revealed he had a diagnosis of Asperger Syndrome.

In the summer, Kennedy wrote that it was "very bad news" and that he was facing "the worst case scenario."

He wrote: "I want to use my time to fix the things I can and put as much love as I can into the world before the boatman rows me across the big river. I'm not afraid.

"I've never felt so loved and appreciated. I think my heart is going to burst. Old friends have come to see me in hospital and we all want to make music together again."

Kennedy added: "It's what I always wanted. Not money. Not fame. I always wanted people to feel what I feel. The magic of music."

In August, in an online blog, the musician said he was facing "the worst case scenario" after receiving the "very bad news".

He revealed he was suffering from cancer in May and began an online blog to keep fans up-to-date on his progress after being overwhelmed by messages of support.

The singer/ songwriter underwent major surgery after a series of tests revealed he has cancer in his pancreas and bowel.

"Once they opened me up the surgeons found that they could do nothing to remove the cancer, and they discovered some more," he said in his blog.

"Very bad news for me, and really the worst case scenario.

"I want to use my time to fix the things I can and put as much love as I can into the world before the boatman rows me across the big river. I'm not afraid."

Enjoy reading the Irish News?

Subscribe now to get full access

Northern Ireland news