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Luke Kelly

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Biography

An icon in Irish folk music as a result of both his solo work and his work as a founding member of legendary group the Dubliners, Luke Kelly led an unfortunately short but productive career that peaked in the late '60s when the Dubliners saw international success in the wave of that era's folk revival. Kelly was born on November 17, 1940, in Dublin, Ireland. Kelly left school at the age of 13 and eventually wound up in Wolverhampton, England. After a number of different job paths, and a number of different locales around England, Kelly would eventually find his musical voice, performing folk tunes at McReady's pub in Leeds. It was at this time that his political views began to cement, with Kelly taking a more than left-wing approach, spending a great deal of time with the Communist party, and taking the words of Pete Seeger and Woody Guthrie to heart. Kelly honed his folk chops busking and touring both Scotland and England with fellow folk musician Dominic Behan. With the boom in Irish ballad music taking shape in 1961, a number of musicians converged on the Dublin scene in 1962. This number (obviously) included Luke Kelly, whose involvement would lead to the formation of the Dubliners, which made it official that same year. 1964 found Kelly leaving the storied group, only to return about two years later. During that time, he performed and worked with a group called the Critics, who were interested in folk exploration and giving support to younger performers. Upon rejoining the Dubliners, Kelly was involved in the recording of the live album Irish Night Out, and the band performed at the National Stadium in Dublin with a hero of his, Pete Seeger. International success was to follow, with the pop world in general beginning to embrace the Emerald Isle's brand of folk balladry. The band toured Australia and New Zealand, performed on the Ed Sullivan television show, and scored hits with the singles "Seven Drunken Nights" and "Black Velvet Band." While Kelly would remain a member of the Dubliners, he would also explore music on his own, releasing solo work and even finding himself involved in musical theater, starring as King Herrod in Joseph and His Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. In June 1980, Kelly collapsed on-stage in Cork and was rushed to the hospital. It was determined that he had a brain tumor. A full recovery was not to be, however, and Kelly fell sick on tour in Switzerland. He died on January 30, 1984. Over the years, his many appearances both as a Dubliner and as a solo artist have been captured on disc, including The Best of Luke Kelly in 2004, The Performer in 2005 (which was the soundtrack to a documentary DVD of the same name), and Working Class Hero in 2007.

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