Some significant poets have fallen away recently. Their words, it's easy for me to say as a no-relation, no family member nor friend, but as a fan, will be with us for good. Little consolation. Benjamin Zephaniah and Shane MacGowan. Their writing resonated across the country and across the globe. Both inspired voices within sometimes marginalised, maligned or just plainly abused communities in England, inspired people to find their mettle and believe that within, with their own word power could be a catalyst for action. Could speak for themselves and not be spoken at. Benjamin Zephaniah’s cultural impact in the UK, his story is immense and we’re not about to jump in and write about that now, there will come a time.
This piece is of course swamped with sentimentality. Shane MacGowan was for me, a simply great entertainer, with a legacy of brilliant records and live performances - a notable show at the House of Blues on Sunset in Los Angeles simply defined for me what charisma actually is. There it was, he had it. I guess he tapped into my memories of my childhood, every summer the boat train to Heysham; the house parties with the roaring conversation, the piano accordion going and the singing and the drinking. Always the drinking. The Broad Majestic Shannon for whatever reason, will always make me think of my dad. Will always bring a tear to my eye, as I idealise him, his long but not long enough journey, the stuff he did for us. Although, me and my dad down at the river was a narrow strip of silvery sparkling crystal outsideleft Cookstown in Tyrone.
Nick Cave has described Shane MacGowan as "the greatest songwriter of his generation." There’s a line from Rainy Night in Soho, sung here by Cave at MacGowan’s funeral, "You’re the measure of my dreams…" so generous and profound a definition of a relationship so precious, the protagonists, are transformed and we as participants are transfixed. We should hope that once or twice in our lives we will recognise that when it’s within reach.
Main image from Wikipedia: Shane McGowan of The Pogues at WOMAD festival, Yokohama, Kanagawa, Japan, 30 August 1991 by Masao Nakagami