Born in Co Westmeath, in a career which spanned almost 50 years, iconic Irish singer Joe Dolan was rarely off the stage and rarely out of the charts. From humble beginnings as a music-mad teenager playing a homemade guitar to becoming one of Europe’s biggest stars on his own right, Joe truly lived the dream.
Dolan collapsed at his family home in suburban south Dublin on Christmas night and died today (Dec. 26) after falling into a coma at a hospital.
He was the most celebrated — and fondly caricatured — survivor of Ireland’s bygone “showband” era of the 1960s and 1970s, when homegrown rock’n’roll acts toured the country playing cover versions of international hits.
His biggest hit in 1969, “Make Me an Island,” reached No. 3 in Britain and No. 1 in 14 other countries. Other hits that climbed the European charts included “You’re Such a Good-Looking Woman” in 1970, “Lady in Blue” in 1975 and “I Need You” in 1977.
His last Irish No. 1 came in 1997, when he re-recorded “Good-Looking Woman” with a popular fictional TV comedian, a puppet named Dustin the Turkey.
“He was a fantastic showman, had great stage presence, had a distinctive singing voice and never forgot his roots,” said Prime Minister Bertie Ahern.
Dolan, with a bushy brow and beaming smile, was known for the power and quality of a voice that fell somewhere between Tom Jones and Tony Bennett. Unlike other showband stars, he found success overseas with original material.
He had an irreverent sense of humor, most recently demonstrated when he underwent a hip replacement operation in 2005 — and had his original hip bone sold for charity on eBay.
In recent years, Dolan kept touring and recording regularly, and was in the middle of a concert series in Dublin in November when he left the stage after just four songs, suffering from exhaustion. He canceled a planned Christmas tour.
Dolan, a lifelong bachelor, was survived by his brother Ben (who performed with him in his original 1960s showband, the Drifters) his other brothers Paddy and Vincent, and his sisters Dympna and Imelda.
A 540 metres (1,770 ft) bridge was named after him in the Clonmore Industrial Estate in his hometown of Mullingar, it opened officially on 6 September 2010. It is the second longest bridge in the Republic of Ireland. There is a statue of Dolan in Mullingar’s Market Square.
Dolan’s hip bone is the only body part to ever be sold on eBay. The singer had initially sold his bone at a charity auction before his death and it was later sold on eBay.