Self-named Liam Clancy (Born William Clancy on September 2, 1935) was an Irish folk singer and actor. He was the last surviving member of the Clancy Brothers. The band (Clancy Brothers) was considered Ireland’s original pop stars, having recorded 55 albums selling internationally, and having performed to sold out crowds at both Carnegie Hall and Royal Albert Hall. Musician Bob Dylan, who became a close friend, regarded Clancy as the greatest ballad singer of all time.
As a child, the first song Clancy ever sung was The Croppy Boy. After a Christian Brothers education, he took a job in Dublin as an insurance agent, but also took night classes at the National College of Art and Design. In 1955 while on a trip, Clancy met Tommy Makem.
The Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem began performing together in the 1950’s with Clancy playing guitar in addition to singing. In 1959 the band released its first album: The Rising of the Moon. They performed in large U.S. cities and performed on The Ed Sullivan Show in 1961. That appearance launched the band’s career. The quartet recorded many albums for Columbia Records.
After the Clancy Brothers no longer performed together, Liam Clancy enjoyed a solo career in Canada, appearing on television. In 1975, he met up again with Tommy Makem at a musical festival. The group Maken and Clancy was formed and performed until 1988. There was also a 1980’s reunion tour, reuniting all members of the Clancy Brothers and Makem.
In 1990, Liam Clancy joined Patty and Bobby Clancy and nephew Robbie O’Connor on stage. He also performed with Fayreweather Band and the Phil Couter Orchestra. He would also perform alone. In 2001 Clancy’s memoir (The Mountain of the Woman) was published. And in 2006 he was profiled in an Irish documentary entitled The Legend of Liam Clancy.
In 2009 a full-length biography of Liam Clancy was released: The Yellow Bittern: The Life and Times of Liam Clancy; it was released in the UK and Ireland. The Wheels of Life was released in 2009; it was Clancy’s final album.
Liam Clancy’s last performance was at the National Concert Hall in May 2009. At that performance he recited the Dylan Thomas poem “And Death shall have no dominion.” Clancy died in Ireland on December 4, 2009. The president of Ireland attended his funeral.
Up until his death brought on by pulmonary fibrosis, Clancy was outspoken politically and had criticized the Gulf Wars and the harsh economic problems gripping Ireland. Clancy was survived by his wife and four children, as well as three children from a previous union.
As a member of Clancy Brothers; as a member of Clancy Brothers & Tommy Makem; as the second half of the duo Tommy Makem and Liam Clancy; and as a solo artist, Liam Clancy had numerous single, guest, and album releases.