Acclaimed Irish singer, songwriter and storyteller Tommy Makem died Wednesday of cancer, ending a worldwide entertainment career that spanned more than five decades. He was 74.
Makem grew to international fame while performing with the band The Clancy Brothers And Tommy Makem in the late 1950s and 1960s.
President Mary McAleese of Ireland led the tributes, saying Makem brought happiness and joy to fans all over the world. "Always the consummate musician, he was also a superb ambassador for the country, and one of whom we will always be proud," McAleese said.
Armed with his banjo, tinwhistle, poetry, stagecraft and his baritone voice, Makem helped spread stories and songs of Irish culture around the world.
In New Hampshire, Makem performed at the Statehouse this year for Gov. John Lynch's inaugural celebration. "It was known that he was not well, yet he played with typical passion and wit, evoking tears of joy and sadness from those assembled," Lynch said on Thursday. "With a strong voice and even stronger spirit, Tommy inspired millions."
Even while battling cancer, Makem maintained a performance schedule, with gigs listed through this fall. His final performance was last spring at a Gaelic festival in Chicago.
Once asked if he was going to retire, Makem replied: "Yes, of course. I retire every night and in the morning when I awake I realize just how lucky and privileged I am to be able to continue doing the things I love to do."