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Josef Locke

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The renowned tenor whose life inspired the 1992 film Hear My Song, Josef Locke was born born Joseph McLaughlin in Londonderry, Northern Ireland on March 23, 1917. According to the tribute site at, he began singing in local churches at age seven, but at 16 enlisted in the Irish Guards; a stint abroad with the Palestine Police preceded his return to Ireland, where he joined the Royal Ulster Constabulary. Appearances at local variety clubs earned McLaughlin the nickname "The Singing Bobby," and although his early repertoire consisted of opera selections, at the urging of noted tenor John McCormack he soon moved to lighter material instead; impresario Jack Hylton, meanwhile, was responsible changing the singer's name to Josef Locke. He released his first recording "Santa Lucia" in 1947, and later that year issued "Hear My Song, Violetta" -- although the latter remained Locke's signature performance throughout his career, his later output combined traditional Irish ballads ("I'll Take You Home Again, Kathleen," "Galway Bay"), operatic material ("My Heart and I," "Goodbye") and Italian hits ("Come Back to Sorrento," "Cara Mia"). He also appeared in a handful of film comedies, including 1948's Holidays with Pay and 1949's What a Carry On. For 19 consecutive seasons he also appeared at the popular British seaside resort of Blackpool; in 1958, however, at the peak of his fame Locke left England in the wake of tax problems, not returning for close to a decade and settling into self-imposed exile in County Kildare. In the interim, lookalike singer Erik Ellison (dubbed "Mr. X" by fans) impersonated Locke onstage -- the confusion dogged both performers for the remainder of their respective careers. Confining his own performances to charity concerts in the years to follow, Locke returned to prominence in 1992 with the release of Hear My Song, a comic fantasy inspired by the singer's life with Ned Beatty in the lead role. He died October 15, 1999. ~ Jason Ankeny

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Birth Name:

Joseph McLaughlin


23 March 1917 in Londonderry, Northern Ireland

Years Active:

'40s, '50s, '60s