The Pogues’ Shane MacGowan Has Died, Aged 65

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A family statement confirmed MacGowan died “peacefully at 3.30am this morning [November 30] with his wife and sister by his side,” and that prayers and the last rites were read during his passing.

MacGowan’s wife, Victoria Mary Clarke, shared her own separate statement via social media, writing: “Shane 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. 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.”

MacGowan had been battling a lengthy period of ill-health. In December 2022, he was hospitalised with viral encephalitis, and spent several months of 2023 in intensive care as a result of it. Clarke revealed that he had left hospital on November 22, and that the pair had celebrated their wedding anniversary together a few days later.

Born in Kent to Irish immigrant parents, MacGowan formed The Pogues, initially known for two years as Pogue Mahone (the anglicisation of the Irish Gaelic póg mo thóin, which translates to ‘kiss my arse’), in 1982 together with Peter “Spider” Stacy, Jem Finer and James Fearnley. A number of additional musicians joined the lineup in the years that followed with The Pogues operating an ever-changeable lineup up to their breakup in 2014.

The group built a steady following playing gigs at London pubs and clubs through the first half of the 1980s, releasing their debut album, Red Roses For Me, in 1984. They reached wider attention after appearing on Channel 4’s flagship music show The Tube and enlisting Elvis Costello to produce their second album, 1985’s Rum Sodomy & The Lash. That record saw the band move away from recording cover versions to writing more original material, with MacGowan fully starting to show his poetic abilities as a songwriter.

Having initially refused to work on a third album, with the band functioning increasingly erratically towards the end of the ’80s, If I Should Fall From Grace With God eventually followed in 1988. It featured the band’s best-known hit, ‘Fairytale Of New York’, a duet with Kirsty MacColl which became a Christmas hit when it peaked at No.2 in the UK singles charts during the Christmas period.

Peace And Love followed in 1989, before the release of 1990’s Hell’s Ditch, which was the last to feature MacGowan as a member of the band. Battling ill-health due to struggles with drugs and alcohol, he was ultimately fired from the band in 1991 after failing to turn up for live shows during a tour of Japan.

He later spoke of hating the direction that the band had taken, telling The Telegraph in 1997 that he “didn’t like what we were playing any more,” and simply didn’t want to “knuckle under and become professional.”

Two albums released as Shane MacGowan and The Popes came out in the ’90s, marking his final full-length releases, before he joined a full reunion of The Pogues in 2001, which endured until 2014.

In 2018, MacGowan’s lyrics were honoured with an Ivor Novello songwriting inspiration award. Having grown up in an Irish republican family, his songwriting frequently explored Irish culture and nationalism, as well as the experiences of the Irish diaspora, particularly in England and the US.

MacGowan is survived by his wife, Clarke, as well as his sister, Siobhan, and father, Maurice.


Source: The Quietus | News | The Pogues’ Shane MacGowan Has Died, Aged 65

RIP Michael Gambon

Sir Michael Gambon in Dennis Potter’s The Singing Detective.

The word “great” is somewhat promiscuously applied to actors. But it was undoubtedly deserved by Sir Michael Gambon, who has died aged 82 after suffering from pneumonia.

He had weight, presence, authority, vocal power and a chameleon-like ability to reinvent himself from one part to another. He was a natural for heavyweight classic roles such as Lear and – in the days when white actors habitually played the role – Othello. But what was truly remarkable was Gambon’s interpretative skill in the work of the best contemporary dramatists, including Harold Pinter, Alan Ayckbourn, David Hare, Caryl Churchill and Simon Gray.

Although he was a fine TV and film actor – and forever identified in the popular imagination with Professor Albus Dumbledore in the Harry Potter franchise – the stage was his natural territory. It is also no accident that, in his private life, Gambon was an expert on, and assiduous collector of, machine tools and firearms for, as Peter Hall once said: “Fate gave him genius but he uses it as a craftsman.”

Off-stage, he was also a larger-than-life figure and  [ . . . ] Continue at The Guardian

My friend Billy: Mark Kermode remembers The Exorcist director William Friedkin

The Observer film critic on his hero, who died last week aged 87, a man dedicated to telling stories his way and who had a wicked sense of humour

By Mark Kermode

In his excellent 1990 biography, Hurricane Billy: The Stormy Life and Films of William Friedkin, writer Nat Segaloff quotes the Oscar-winning film-maker as wryly observing: “You know what it’s going to say on my tombstone? It’s going to say ‘The Man Who Directed The Exorcist.’” As someone who has spent a lifetime declaring The Exorcist (1973) to be the greatest movie ever made, I understand how it might perhaps have overshadowed a career that was as long as it was varied.

William Friedkin
Directing Gene Hackman in The French Connection

Yet Friedkin, whom I first met back in the 1990s when I was a starstruck fan (which I remained), did so much more than helm the movie that changed my life – and the lives of many others. He proved himself one of the most fearless and inventive directors of his generation, working in a string of genres – from musical comedy to serious psychodrama; political satire to police thriller; stage play adaptations to tales of supernatural terror – with equal ease and enthusiasm.

My initial encounter with Friedkin – whom everyone called Billy – was on the phone, in 1990, when I interviewed him about his bonkers psycho-nanny/killer-tree movie (yes, really), The Guardian. The reviews had not been good, but Friedkin was typically unfazed. Back in 1977, the reviews for his Wages of Fear remake Sorcerer had also been excoriating and the film had been a major box-office flop. Yet Sorcerer is now widely acknowledged to be one of Friedkin’s finest films – a gruellingly nihilistic exercise in nail-biting suspense; a hellish journey into the heart of darkness. Crucially, Friedkin understood that not every film finds its audience first time around, and so he was equally upbeat when the erotic thriller Jade took a similar drubbing in 1995, defiantly telling me at the time that it was “probably my favourite movie”. (He later said he’d been joking, but I think in the moment he meant it.)

I met Friedkin in person for the first time in 1991, when I went to LA to interview him for the Channel 4 documentary Fear in the Dark. I expected him to be a dark and brooding presence but he was quite the opposite – casually dressed, hugely relaxed and positively playful in his demeanour. On camera he was charming and funny, talking enthusiastically about his love of Psycho (“It wrestles you to the ground”), asking me if liked opera (I knew nothing about the subject), and hilariously declaring on camera that he “couldn’t give a flying fuck into a rolling doughnut” that The Exorcist didn’t win best picture in 1974 because it was “clearly the best picture of the year”. Ha!

Our paths crossed again in 1997 after he picked up a copy of my BFI modern classics volume on The Exorcist in an LA bookstore. The phone rang, and when I heard the words “I have Billy Friedkin on the line for you”, I went weak at the knees, convinced he was calling to demand who the hell I thought I was, writing a book about his movie. To my relief, he told me he thought the book was “great” and he’d bought all the copies in the store! Relieved, I immediately proposed a documentary to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the film. The result was The Fear of God (1998, currently on BBC iPlayer) in which he and the film’s writer and producer, William Peter Blatty, looked back on their differing visions of The Exorcist, while cast and crew remembered the enormous (and often alarming) challenges of making that electrifying movie.

Throughout his career, Friedkin never shied away from a challenge, insisting that if a film had a good story – whatever the genre – then he was game. His earliest works include the 1962 documentary The People v Paul Crump, which was partly credited with the commutation of its subject’s death sentence. Decades later, I had the privilege of collaborating with Friedkin on the narration for his demonic-possession documentary The Devil and Father Amorth (2017), although despite my co-writer credit, the voice of that film remains solely and unmistakably Friedkin’s. (I remember standing on one leg in the corner of a car park in Cornwall, trying to get a phone signal to Friedkin in LA, and shouting “It’s not about faith, it’s about doubt” to the bemusement of the seagulls.)

Having directed one of the last episodes of The Alfred Hitchcock Hour in 1965 (“Did Hitchcock give you any advice?”; “Yes, he said ‘Our directors usually wear ties’”), Friedkin made his feature film debut with the Sonny and Cher vehicle Good Times (1967), which he presciently described as a cautionary tale about “selling your soul to the devil”He brought Harold Pinter’s The Birthday Party and Mart Crowley’s The Boys in the Band to the screen in 1968 and 1970 respectively, and directed Bert Lahr in his final role in the nostalgic burlesque romp The Night They Raided Minsky’s (1968), alongside Britt Ekland, Jason Robards and Norman Wisdom. Yes, really.

Linda Blair, Max von Sydow and Jason Miller in The Exorcist (1973).
Linda Blair, Max von Sydow and Jason Miller in The Exorcist (1973). Photograph: Allstar/Hoya Productions

But it was with the best picture Oscar winner The French Connection (1971) that Friedkin really made his mark, adapting the true story of a record-breaking drugs bust into an edge-of-your-seat thriller that took stylistic inspiration from Costa-Gavras’s (1969), and looked more like a documentary than a drama. It was that sense of verité grit and realism that convinced Blatty that Friedkin was the only director who could bring his supernatural bestseller The Exorcist to the screen, making audiences believe that what they were watching was real. Continue reading

Lill-Babs” Svensson of “Bonus Family” once shared stage with the Beatles


The late Swedish singer and actress Lill-Babs, who recently played the character “Gugge” in the Netflix hit “Bonus Family,” once shared a stage with the Beatles. And, it was the lads from Liverpool who actually requested her autograph after the show!

Barbro “Lill-Babs” Svensson was born in Järvsö in 1938 and released her first album in 1954. She became known as the Järvsø Judy Garland but was later given the name Lill-Babs by Simon Brehm, who discovered her on the Morgonkvisten radio show and became her manager.

Lill-Babs, The Telstars and The Beatles took part in the Swedish show Drop-In in 1963

Lill-Babs finished fourteenth when representing Sweden at the 1961 Eurovision Song Contest in Cannes with the song April, April. However, she participated in Sweden’s qualifying Melodifestivalen three times overall (1960, 1961 and 1973), and even entered Norway’s Melodi Grand Prix in 1969.

As the singing career of Lill-Babs flourished throughout the decades, she became a national treasure. But her most recent success was in the critically acclaimed role as Gugge in SVT hit drama Bonus Family (Bonusfamiljen).

Image result for Lil-Babbs Gugge
As “Gugge” (right) in “Bonus Family”

Lill-Babs passed away at 80 years of age on April 3 of 2018. She leaves behind three daughters: Monica Svensson, Malin Berghagen and Kristin Kaspersen.

Tributes paid to prolific singer-songwriter Michael Chapman, who has died aged 80

The announcement was made earlier today (September 11), informing fans that Chapman died at his home at age 80.

Folk singer-songwriter Michael Chapman has died at the age of 80.

The announcement was made via Chapman’s Instagram page earlier today (September 11). No cause of death was revealed, but the social media post stated that Chapman died in his home.

“Please raise a glass or two to a gentleman, a musician, a husband, a force of nature, a legend and the most fully qualified survivor,” it reads.

His label Paradise of Bachelors also issued a statement on the platform.

“Michael Chapman was a hero and friend to so many, including us,” they wrote, “moving with unmatched grace, vigor, and gruff humor within and beyond his songs and those he inspired from others. We are devastated to hear of his passing today.”

Born in Leeds in 1941, Chapman released his debut album, ‘Rainmaker’, in 1969. Since then, he has issued over 40 full-length albums. His final recorded effort, ‘True North’, was released in 2019 via Paradise of Bachelors.

In his work, Chapman explored roots music, such as blues and folk, through acoustic and electric instruments, issuing multiple instrumental efforts and collaborations over the decades. His work has also been influential to various artists ever since, including Sonic Youth‘s Thurston Moore.

In 2017, Chapman told The Guardian that he had dinner with Moore in 1998, who confessed to him that his 1973 album, ‘Millstone Grit’, helped spark the genesis of Sonic Youth. “He blames the feedback extravaganzas on there for them forming,” Chapman said.

On Instagram, Moore shared a clip from a fireside performance by Chapman via Ecstatic Peace Library. “And this is the last time we saw you by the fire,” he wrote. “We got to know England when (and because) we got to know you. Thank you hero.”

A 2012 compilation album, titled ‘Oh Michael, Look What You’ve Done: Friends Play Michael Chapman’, featured covers of his songs by Moore, Lucinda Williams, Hiss Golden Messenger, and William Tyler, among others.

Chapman also spent his time in recent decades touring with younger contemporaries such as Bill Callahan, Ryley Walker, Daniel Bachman, and the late Jack Rose.

Singer-songwriter Steve Gunn, who went on to produce ‘True North’ for Chapman, told The Guardian that his 1970s albums “were so ahead of their time”. Upon news of his death, the musician tweeted pictures of Chapman, one taken with Gunn.

US label Light in the Attic, who reissued his first four albums in the 2010s, called Chapman “a rare human”.

“Immensely talented, honest, supportive, funny, and always zero bullshit,” they wrote.

Source: Tributes paid to prolific singer-songwriter Michael Chapman, who has died aged 80