Considered one of Ireland’s greatest folk singers, Luke Kelly built his career on an ability to connect through story and song, from the streets of north Dublin to stages all over the world. He had a significant impact on the 1960s and 1970s Dublin and Irish music scene.
Born on Sheriff Street in Dublin city into a working-class family, he moved to England in his late teens, where he got involved in folk music and was influenced by Ewan MacColl.
Back in Dublin in the 1960s, he became a founding member of The Dubliners, for whom he played the banjo and sang. He played with them for 19 years.
Kelly was known for interpretations of songs including On Raglan Road, Scorn Not His Simplicity and The Town I Loved So Well. As an actor he played King Herod in the musical Jesus Christ Superstar (produced by Noel Pearson in 1973 in the Gaiety). He died on January 30th, 1984 and is buried in Glasnevin Cemetery.
Family friend and author of Luke Kelly A Memoir, Des Geraghty says of him: “The voice of Luke Kelly rang out loud and clear in the early 1960s to lift up the heart and soul of a dismal Dublin city. He captured the latent spirit of the Irish people and gave new hope and inspiration to the poor and oppressed in many a distant land. Like Joe Hill, the great American union organiser and folk singer, his voice and passion for justice and liberty will never die.”
You wait years for a statue to commemorate this iconic musical artist, and then two of them come along at once. Today 30th January, the Capital City unveils two separate sculptures, one on either side of the River Liffey, of the quintessentially Dublin singer, folk musician, social activist and actor – marking the 35th anniversary of his death.
Organised by Dublin City Council, the official unveiling of both sculptures will be undertaken by President of Ireland Michael D Higgins and Lord Mayor of Dublin Nial Ring, an event that will end a long-running saga between two sculptors and their patrons.
Dublin City Council is also hosting a concert in Liberty Hall, Dublin on Wednesday, January 30th, marking the statues and celebrating Luke Kelly’s contribution to Dublin and to Irish music.
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