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Shane MacGowan, irascible frontman of The Pogues, has died at age 65

Shane MacGowan live onstage in 1988, courtesy of the documentary film <em>Crock of Gold: A Few Rounds With Shane MacGowan</em>.
Andrew Catlin
Magnolia Pictures
Shane MacGowan live onstage in 1988, courtesy of the documentary film Crock of Gold: A Few Rounds With Shane MacGowan.

Shane MacGowan, the hard-drinking frontman for Irish punk band The Pogues, has died. He was 65 years old.

His wife, Victoria Mary Clarke, announced his death Thursday morning. No official cause of death was provided, but MacGowan had recently left a hospital in Dublin, Ireland, after a diagnosis of encephalitis.

"It is with the deepest sorrow and heaviest of hearts that we announce the passing of Shane MacGowan," his family said in a statement. "Shane died peacefully at 3am this morning (30 November, 2023) with his wife Victoria and family by his side."

Shane MacGowan was an Irish kid who grew up in England, and the songs he wrote and sang were a furious fusion of folk and punk.

"God said I'm the little boy he's going to use to save Irish music and take it to greater popularity than it's ever had before," MacGown said in the documentary Crock of Gold: A Few Rounds With Shane MacGowan.

His band, The Pogues, was once described as a barroom brawl with instruments. MacGowan was its combustible champion. His drinking and drugging would destroy his body, but MacGowan led the Pogues to international renown.

"People have given Shane six months to live every year since he's been 19," Pogues guitarist Philip Chevron told NPR in 2006.

MacGowan left the world with one of the darkest and most moving Christmas songs ever written, "Fairytale of New York," released in 1987.

"I know he's got a reputation for outrageous behavior [and] lots of alcohol in his act ... but he's one of the most well-read, sophisticated people I've ever met," music producer Hal Willner told NPR's Fresh Air in 2013.

"I'm just following the Irish way of life," MacGowan said in Crock of Gold. "Cram as much pleasure as you can in your life and rile against the pain that you have to suffer as a result and then wait for it to be taken away with beautiful pleasure."

This is a breaking story and will be updated as details are released.

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Neda Ulaby reports on arts, entertainment, and cultural trends for NPR's Arts Desk.