“A true friend and the greatest songwriter of his generation”: The Pogues icon Shane MacGowan has died aged 65

Shane MacGowan
(Image credit: Matt Kent/Redferns/Getty Images)

Shane MacGowan – celebrated singer-songwriter and frontman of iconic Anglo-Irish band The Pogues – has died at the age of 65, it has been confirmed.

MacGowan’s wife, Victoria Mary Clarke, broke the news in a post on social media. In tribute to MacGowan, she wrote, “You gave so much joy to so many people with your heart and soul and your music.”

In an earlier post published to X last week, Clarke confirmed MacGown had left hospital after the musician was admitted to receive what was reported to be intensive care following a diagnosis of viral encephalitis last year.

A statement from MacGowan’s spokesperson said the influential artist “died peacefully at 3:30am this morning (November 30) with his wife and sister by his side”.

The son of Irish immigrants, MacGowan was born in Kent in 1957. In 1982, he founded the Irish punk band Pogue Mahone – later shortened to The Pogues – for whom he served as songwriter and frontman during two separate stints until 2014.

The group promptly shot to fame in the ‘80s, noted for their hybrid blend of punk and traditional Irish music that often came hand-in-hand with The Pogues’ loyal and energetic live following.

During his career with The Pogues, MacGowan released seven studio albums and numerous classic singles, the most notable being their 1988 Christmas collaboration with Kirsty MacColl, Fairytale of New York.

Though MacGowan and The Pogues’ are perhaps best known for this song, the musician’s influence and musicality stretches far beyond The Fairytale of New York. Indeed, albums such as Red Roses For Me, Rum, Sodomy and the Lash and If I Should Fall from Grace with God mixed traditional Irish tracks with MacGowan’s original works, the latter of which helped develop his reputation as one of the finest lyricists of his time.

After being fired from The Pogues in the early ‘90s, MacGowan and his former bandmates would reform at the onset of the century for a string of sell-out tours, before the group disbanded for the last time in 2014.

In 2018 he was honored with a lifetime achievement award, and in 2020 a documentary about his life – titled Crock of Gold: A Few Rounds with Shane MacGowan – was released.

Tributes for the vocalist have poured in, with Bad Seeds frontman Nick Cave calling him “a true friend” and “the greatest songwriter of our generation”. Tim Burgess, lead singer of the Charlatans, wrote, “Farewell Shane MacGowan. A life lived to the full. A lyrical genius. An inspiration to so many of us who wanted to be in bands.”

Michael Higgins, the President of Ireland, also offered a tribute of his own, writing, “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.”

In her own post, Clarke wrote, “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,” she continued. “Thank you thank you thank you 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.”

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Matt Owen

Matt is a Staff Writer, writing for Guitar World, Guitarist and Total Guitar. He has a Masters in the guitar, a degree in history, and has spent the last 16 years playing everything from blues and jazz to indie and pop. When he’s not combining his passion for writing and music during his day job, Matt records for a number of UK-based bands and songwriters as a session musician.