Ronnie Drew & The Dubliners

Ronnie Drew & The Dubliners

Ronnie Drew (right), Luke Kelly (seated), Ciarán Burke, & Barney McKenna on the cover of the first of some fifty original long-playing records (and hundreds of reissues) by the Dubliners group, Transatlantic TRA 116, issued 1964. Photo and design Brian Shuel.

Ronnie Drew (1934–2008) from Glasthule, south Co Dublin, a singer with a highly individual voice, and a guitarist, was one of the best known Irish popular entertainers of the 20th century. After a 1950s sojourn in Spain, he became part of bohemian Dublin as a character actor and singer, and in 1962 formed the Ronnie Drew Ballad group, the most exciting and distinctive of the hundreds of ballad groups that sprang up in Ireland after the success of the Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem in the United States. Rehearsing in O’Donoghue’s public house in Merrion Row, Dublin, the group became the Dubliners and enjoyed an extraordinary professional career for over 30 years in Ireland and Britain, and especially in continental Europe. With wit and panache it challenged the sedate norms of Irish singing with an image of hard-drinking rowdiness that overlaid a varied musicality and stagecraft. Drew’s rasping and sardonic singing and his repertory of comic and nationalistic Dublin songs complemented the more lyrical singing and British songs of Luke Kelly, and the group’s virtuoso instrumental playing. For a period in the late 1970s and from the mid-1990s Ronnie Drew performed solo and in a variety of musical and theatrical collaborations.

© Transatlantic Records 1964. Courtesy Irish Traditional Music Archive

Published on 1 September 2008

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