In 1993, Black 47 changed Irish-American music irrevocably when they burst out of MTV screens with their hit single, “Funky Ceili”. Not only were people dancing in the aisles at their concerts, they introduced a new generation to the literature, politics and soul of Irish culture. Taking their name from the darkest year of the Irish Potato Famine, their music, though often based on traditional melodies, is laced with rock, reggae, hip-hop, New Orleans and modern jazz; while songwriter Larry Kirwan uses influences as varied as Yeats, Joyce and Dylan to fashion his dramatic cutting edge lyrics.
Kirwan was born in Wexford, Ireland and emigrated to Greenwich Village where he made his name as a playwright in the company of the McCourt Brothers, Pete Hamill, Lester Bangs, Cyndi Lauper and Ric Ocasek. Long involved in the Irish Civil Rights Movement, he formed Black 47 in 1989 to give voice to ideas of freedom and cultural renewal. The band’s packed performances in New York City led to intense media attention and they were propelled into mainstream consciousness when they recorded “Fire of Freedom” and “Home of the Brave” for EMI Records. They have appeared on every major TV show (including The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, Late Show with David Letterman and Late Night with Conan O’Brien) and were profiled by Time Magazine, People Magazine, Entertainment Weekly, The New York Times, Washington Post, and USA Today. They have released seven other acclaimed CDs including their latest release, “Bittersweet Sixteen”, which takes a look back at the band’s last sixteen years on the road and is a collection of rarities, unreleased tracks, live recordings and new songs.
They have appeared in The Saint of Fort Washington with Matt Dillon and Danny Glover, and their music has been featured in Stephen Rea’s The Break, Jim Sheridan’s Into the West, Timothy Dalton’s Deterrence as well as many independent movies and documentaries.Their own Public TV special, Black 47 with The Trinity Irish Dancers appears nationally on a regular basis. They composed the music for and performed in Victim 0001, an ITV (UK) film about their friend and fan, Fr. Mychal Judge, chaplain of the FDNY during 9/11. Their songs have long been used in political science and history courses in hundreds of colleges and high schools where Kirwan is often a guest lecturer.
Kirwan programs Celtic music for Sirius Satellite Radio and hosts his own bi-weekly show Celtic Crush. His plays, published under the title Mad Angels have been produced in the US and Europe. His novel, Liverpool Fantasy, an alternate history of The Beatles, received much critical acclaim as did the recently published Green Suede Shoes, a memoir of life in Ireland and New York City. His CD for children of all ages, Keltic Kids, is a perennial favorite. He enjoys reading and speaking to select audiences at colleges and centers prior to the band’s performances.
Black 47 includes Geoffrey Blythe (saxophones), a founding member of Dexy’s Midnight Runners, Fred Parcells (trombone), who has worked extensively in Latin/Jazz big bands, Thomas Hamlin (drums), a veteran of the Max’s/CBGB’s downtown scene, Joseph Mulvanerty who is recognized as one of the great innovators of the Irish uilleann pipes, and newest member, bassist, Joseph Bearclaw, who has added his funk and R&B experience to the brew.
In their current theatrical show, Kirwan and his comrades offer a thrilling journey through history and political struggle that will not only entertain but open up audiences to a new cultural experience.