Nick Cave has written a tribute to Shane MacGowan and Sinéad O’Connor following their deaths.
On November 30, it was announced that MacGowan, lead singer of The Pogues, passed away peacefully surrounded by his family and friends. His death came five months after the news of Sinéad O’Connor’s passing. The two musicians had a long enduring friendship, even collaborating together on the 1995 single ‘Haunted’.
Now, Nick Cave has responded to the two deaths in a lengthy essay written on his Red Hand Files website. He previously reacted to the news of MacGowan’s passing by calling him “a true friend and the greatest songwriter of his generation,” adding that this marked “a very sad day”.
In his letter, Cave reminisced on MacGowan’s 60th birthday gig in Dublin. Cave and O’Connor performed at the gig, along with the likes of Bono, The Libertines’ Carl Barat and Primal Scream’s Bobby Gillespie.
Cave began by remembering he felt “agitated and nervous about performing”. “I was surrounded by all of these artists doing beautiful versions of Shane’s songs and, I don’t know, I guess I was also feeling a bit out of sorts that evening,” he explained.
He went on to spot O’Connor “standing slightly separate from everyone else, half hidden by the curtain, gazing at the floor, looking fierce and intense.”
“I didn’t really know Sinéad,” wrote Cave. “I’d met her a few times here and there, and maybe chatted briefly with her, but I had always liked her uniqueness, her raging spirit, her disagreeableness, her beautifulness and, of course, her celestial voice.
“Sinéad looked up and caught my eye, smiled, and walked over and hugged me,” he continued. “I’m not sure why, but I was terribly moved by her gesture. She was so warm and giving and kind in that moment. I was unaware quite how precious a moment it would turn out to be.”
Cave then described being ushered away from O’Connor before he could say anything, soon to perform The Pogues’ ‘Summer in Siam’ with MacGowan.
The singer-songwriter went on to recall MacGowan’s wife Victoria pushing Shane on stage in a wheelchair. “I know I should be talking about the pure unbridled genius of Shane MacGowan and how he was the greatest songwriter of his generation, with the most terrifyingly beautiful of voices — all of which is true,” wrote Cave.
“But what struck me at that moment was the extraordinary display of love for this man, so powerful and deep, that poured forth from the audience. It was like nothing I’ve ever experienced.” He said the touching moment brought a Raymond Carver poem to mind called ‘Late Fragment’.
“Shane was not revered just for his manifold talents but also loved for himself alone,” he continued. “A beautiful and damaged man, who embodied a kind of purity and innocence and generosity and spiritual intelligence unlike any other.
“Sinéad once said of Shane, ‘He is an angel. An actual angel’. Whether or not this is the case, who’s to say? But Shane was blessed with an uncommon spirit of goodness and a deep sense of what is true, which was strangely amplified in his brokenness, his humanness.
“We can say of him most certainly, ‘he was beloved on the earth,’ and Sinéad too — truly beloved and greatly missed, both,” he concluded.
Since the news of MacGowan and O’Connor’s death, an old interview clip of the duo has resurfaced, in which they discuss life and death.
Elsewhere, tributes have come flooding in to the poetic after the news of his death – read a full list here.