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Shane MacGowan: 15 Essential Songs

An anti-war epic, a Christmas classic, an incredible Sinead duet, and more

Shane MacGowan

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WITH THE POGUES, singer, songwriter, and rock & roll icon Shane MacGowan connected the sound and spirit of punk with his Irish roots to create one of the most distinctive bands of the past 40 years. Pogues albums like 1985’s Rum, Sodomy & the Lash and 1988’s If I Should Fall From Grace With God remain classics, and his finest songs (both originals and covers) were full of heart, poetry, and ragged beauty. He was also a great duet partner for other artists. Here are some highlights from his brilliant career.

From Rolling Stone US

‘Haunted’ (with Sinéad O’Connor) (1995)

MacGowan might not appear to be a leading man, but on this melancholy duet with Sinéad O’Connor, which appeared on the soundtrack for 1995’s Two If By Sea, he steps effortlessly into that role. Offsetting the falsetto notes of O’Connor’s opening lines — “Do you remember that sunny day/somewhere in London in the middle of nowhere” — MacGowan’s gruff declarations of love give the song an endearing quality. The Pogues had recorded “Haunted” a decade earlier for the Sid and Nancy soundtrack, with MacGowan singing alongside Cait O’Riordan, but it was the chemistry between him and O’Connor that made the song a minor hit, reaching Number 30 on the U.K. charts. The two remained close friends, but in 2000 they had a falling out when O’Connor called the cops on MacGowan, hoping it would help him kick heroin. They eventually rekindled their friendship, but it’s this song — a ghostly ballad about enduring love — that will forever encapsulate their shared greatness. —E.G.P.

‘My Way’ (1996)

If anyone other than Frank Sinatra earned the right to sing this ode to willful stubbornness, it was MacGowan. By the mid-Nineties, when he turned the song into a Celtic-punk brawl, he was pushing 40 and had been through it. It all came out in his rendition, which was neither campy nor kitschy but a defiant statement of purpose. When he gargled, “Let the record show, I took all the blows/And did it my way,” he not only meant it; he was proud of it. MacGowan’s last shining moment, it naturally concludes with a touch of electrified Irish music, just to remind us where his roots lie. Somewhere, let’s hope he and Frank are tossing back a few together. —D.B.