Rory Gallagher died June 14, 1995 aged just 47, but what if anything do you know about Ireland's first genuine guitar hero?
There are four men who stand head and shoulders above all others in the story of contemporary Irish music - the English-born Phil Lynott, who died in 1986; the Belfast-born Van Morrison; the Anglo-Irish Chris de Burgh (who was born in Argentina); and guitarist Rory Gallagher. While Van Morrison is undoubtedly the most influential, both he and Chris de Burgh are first and foremost songwriters rather than musicians, and hard rock has never been their forte.
Native-born Irishman William Rory Gallagher entered the world on March 2, 1948 in Rock Hospital, Ballyshannon, “born to rock”. After serving an apprenticeship of sorts, Gallagher formed a short lived power trio, Taste, which established his presence, then up until his premature death he was a solo artist supported by his friend Gerry McAvoy on bass, a drummer, and an occasional keyboard player and harmonica player.
Rory released a number of studio albums, but he was one artist to whom a studio could never do justice. On stage he was a veritable dynamo, and we are fortunate that many hours of footage of his performances have been preserved. We are doubly fortunate that his brother Donal is his biggest fan, and maintains an amazing website.
Away from the stage, dressed in his trademark lumberjack shirt, he was as unlike a rock star as any man with long flowing locks could be, literally quiet as a mouse, modest and totally self-effacing. Although apparently not a heavy drinker, Rory suffered liver damage, something all too common in itinerant musicians. His last performance was in the Netherlands on January 10, 1995. He contracted an infection after a liver transplant, and died in London five months later. The unmarried Rory Gallagher had no issue, but as Richard Dawkins will agree, there are more ways than mere selfish genes of attaining immortality. Rory toured incessantly, and never came “in from the cold”, as captured in his song Philby, thus bequeathing to the world a rich musical legacy. Seventeen years after his death, Rory Gallagher's memory is still very much alive, and the end of this month sees a spectacular four day international tribute festival in Dublin, including many events free of charge. Details can be found at the previous link, on the official Rory Gallagher website.