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Nick Cave’s Tribute to Shane MacGowan: The Unbridled Genius and Enduring Legacy

A Reflection on the 60th Birthday Performance, Moments of Intimacy, and the Powerful Outpouring of Love from Fans

“He was the greatest songwriter of his generation, a pure, unrestrained genius”. With these words on his blog, The Red Hand Files, Nick Cave paid tribute to Shane MacGowan, the Pogues’ frontman who passed away on November 30th (see our profile here).

In recalling MacGowan, Cave shared a memory from their joint performance on the Irish musician’s 60th birthday in 2017. “I was on the side of the stage for Shane’s 60th in Dublin, feeling a bit uneasy and nervous about the performance. Surrounded by artists delivering beautiful versions of Shane’s songs, I sensed a touch of displacement,” Cave recounted before detailing an encounter with Sinéad O’Connor that evening (who, having passed away in July, was a close friend of MacGowan): “She stood apart, partially concealed behind the curtains, gaze fixed on the ground, projecting a proud and intense presence. She looked at me, smiled, approached, and gave me a hug. I can’t pinpoint why, but that gesture resonated with me.”

On that night, Cave sang “Summer in Siam” alongside MacGowan: “I could talk about Shane MacGowan’s unbridled genius and how he was the paramount songwriter of his generation, possessing one of the most hauntingly beautiful voices ever. However, what struck me at that moment was the remarkable outpouring of love from the audience for this man – a display so potent and profound. I had never witnessed anything quite like it.”

Cave continued, describing MacGowan as “a beautiful yet broken person, embodying purity, innocence, generosity, and spiritual intelligence like no other.” He concluded by referencing Sinéad’s statement that Shane was an angel, pondering whether she might have been correct.

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