Academic journal article Folk Music Journal

The Yellow Bittern: The Life and Times of Liam Clancy

Academic journal article Folk Music Journal

The Yellow Bittern: The Life and Times of Liam Clancy

Article excerpt

Produced by John Murray and Anna Rodgers. Directed by Alan Gilsenan. Edited by Oliver Fallen. DVD, 110 minutes, 2009. Distributed by Element Pictures, 21 Mespil Road, Dublin 4, Ireland.

Hailing from Carrick-on-Suir, County Tipperary, Liam Clancy established himself as an influential Irish folk singer and actor. who gained national acclaim for his integral role with the Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem. During the 1960s, the group popularized Irish drinking songs and ballads through a series of albums and successful. performances culminating in sold-out shows at Carnegie Hall and the Royal Albert Hall. and performances on the Ed Sullivan Show. Regarded as Ireland's first pop stars, the Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem benefited both from a supportive Irish diaspora community in America and from a resurgence of traditional culture in Ireland. Marketed to international audiences as the embodiment of traditional Irish culture and values, the group became iconic of Irishness. Liam Clancy eventually pursued a successful solo career as a musician and actor after feuding with his familial band mates.

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The Yellow Bittern: The Life and Times of Liam Clancy explores his life in a linear fashion. Clancy narrates highlighted segments of his career in a candid, poetic manner, delivered in a gentle Irish brogue. His music becomes the backdrop to the film, as key relationships between Clancy himself and Peggy Guggenheim, Tommy Makem, and his brothers, Patrick, Tom. and Bobby Clancy, are examined. The dynamic nature of these relationships enabled Liam Clancy to achieve musical success and to sustain an artistic career that established him in the collective American consciousness as a symbol of Irish immigrant nostalgia.

The film benefits greatly from a wealth of archival footage which buttresses Liam Clancy's emotionally charged, pensive narration. Director Alan Gilsenan expertly weaves together unseen footage from Clancy's 1964 performance at the Newport Folk Festival, home movies, appearances on the Ed Sullivan Show and Pete Seeger's Rainbow Quest, as well as photos and correspondence from the Clancy family's personal archive. Different perspectives supplement Clancy's narration, as interviews with Bob Dylan, Shane McGowan, and Pete Seeger are interspersed throughout the aim. …

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