Shane MacGowan
(Photo by Martyn Goodacre/Getty Images)

Shane MacGowan, former lead singer of Irish folk-punk outfit The Pogues, has died at the age of 65.

The news of his death was announced by his wife, Victoria Clarke, who said in a statement: “Shane will always be the light that I hold before me and the measure of my dreams and the love of my life.

“[He] 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… 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.”

Shane MacGowan was born on 25 December 1957 in Pembury in Kent, the son of Irish immigrants (his father was from Dublin and his mother from Tipperary). He was partially educated at the prestigious Westminster School in London, having won a scholarship. He was, however, found in possession of drugs and expelled in his second year.

MacGowan was a main face on the London punk scene of the late 70s and formed The Pogues in 1982. Over a 14-year career, they chalked up six Top 40 hits, including Fiesta, The Irish Rover and of course the classic Fairytale Of New York (with Kirsty MacColl). 

The band broke up in 1996, and MacGowan went on to form Shane MacGowan And The Popes, with whom he recorded two studio albums.

In 2001, he rejoined The Pogues and remained with the band until 2014.

MacGowan’s health had suffered in recent years. After injuring himself in a fall in 2015, he’d been forced to use a wheelchair and was diagnosed with encephalitis in 2022.

Following the singer’s death, Michael D Higgins, President of Ireland, said in tribute: “Shane will be remembered as one of music’s greatest lyricists. So many of his songs would be perfectly crafted poems, if that would not have deprived us of the opportunity to hear him sing them. The genius of Shane’s contribution includes the fact that his songs capture within them, as Shane would put it, the measure of our dreams – of so many worlds, and particularly those of love, of the emigrant experience and of facing the challenges of that experience with authenticity and courage, and of living and seeing the sides of life that so many turn away from.”