Irish folk group
Irish folk group the Fureys made a name for themselves by performing popularized versions of Irish traditional songs. They were the first folk band from Ireland to make the British charts with their 1981 single “When You Were Sweet 16.” They have recorded more than 50 albums and have had several hit songs, earning attention for bringing folk music to mainstream listeners.
The Furey brothers—Eddie, Finbar, George, and Paul—grew up in Ballyfermot, a poor suburb of Dublin, Ireland. Although their family had little money, they treasured their sense of humor and their musical gifts. Their mother, Nora Connolly, played the button accordion and banjo and sang countless songs. Their father, Ted, a horse trader, was also a fiddle player, singer, and storyteller who collected songs Irish tunes and played at O’Donoghue’s pub in Dublin with what a BBC Radio 2 reporter called “a no-frills in-your-face style.”
Finbar Furey revealed his musical talent early, becoming a three-time all-Ireland pipes champion. He told the BBC Radio 2 reporter, “I’d sit for hours practising my pipes on my own but one day Eddie picked up a guitar and backed me. It was a completely new sound, very exciting and completely fresh.” When Finbar was invited to play at the prestigious Pipers Club, he caused a commotion among traditional listeners by insisting that Eddie play along on his guitar.
As a teenager, Paul and his father formed a duet and toured Ireland, playing in pubs and in sessions with other musicians. During the 1960s, Finbar and Eddie Furey performed as a duo in clubs and on the radio. They were offered a recording contract, but they refused it and went to Scotland to play. Later, after establishing a reputation as fine musicians, they signed a contract with Transatlantic and toured with the Clancy Brothers on their American tour in 1969.
In 1972 the two Furey brothers toured throughout Europe. In the meantime, their brothers Paul and George joined with their friend Davey Arthur to form a group called the Buskers. When the Buskers were involved in a car crash, Finbar and Eddie returned home. Soon after, they joined with Arthur and Paul to form the group Tarn Linn. Tarn Linn headlined at the Cambridge Folk Festival. Eventually George joined the group, which was renamed the Fureys and Davey Arthur.
In 1981 the group reached the United Kingdom top 20 with their song “When You Were Sweet 16.” Their album of the same title, however, barely made the United Kingdom top 100 in 1982. Their follow-up single, “I Will Love You,” did not make the United Kingdom top 50. In 1984 their album Golden Days made the United Kingdom top 20 and sold over 250,000 copies; in 1985 their album At the End of a Perfect Day made the United Kingdom top 40. Throughout the 1980s, the group remained hugely popular among folk fans and on the folk concert circuit, as they “unashamedly exploited] the emotional soul of Irish music,” according to the BBC Radio 2 reporter. Their songs were embellished by Finbar’s fiery piping and strong accompaniment by the rest of the band. Some of their other popular songs were “Green Fields of France,” “Maggie,” “Red Rose Café,” and “I’ll Take You Home Again Kathleen.”
In 1993 Davey Arthur left the band to pursue his own projects, and Finbar took some time off for solo projects. Performing and recording as the Fureys, the band continued on, releasing a number of albums over the next several years.
In 1997 the Furey brothers were shocked to find that they were being fined for failing to pay their income tax returns on time, the result of an Irish inquiry into tax irregularities. This problem was a minor annoyance compared to another event that year: someone stole instruments valued at 150,000 English pounds from their tour van while it was parked in East London. The instruments included accordions, guitars, a bodhran drum, and a banjo. The London police were unable to track down the perpetrators.
Over the course of their career, the Fureys toured Australia 14 times. In tribute to their achievements in that country and in the folk music world, they were awarded a Certificate of Appreciation from the Australian Songwriters’Association in 1998.
In 1999 the Fureys made a surprising return to the charts when French DJ Shadow Blacque made a popular remix of “When You Were Sweet 16.” In 2002
Members include Davey Arthur (born on September 24, 1954; group member, 1972–93), multiple instruments, vocals; Eddie Furey (born on December 23, 1944, in Dublin, Ireland), guitar, mandola, mandolin, harmonica, fiddle, bodhran, vocals; Finbar Furey (born on September 28, 1946, in Dublin, Ireland; married Sheila), vocals, uilleann pipes, banjo, whistles, flute; George Furey (born on June 11, 1951, in Dublin, Ireland; joined group, 1980), vocals, guitar, accordion, mandola, autoharp, whistles; Paul Furey (born on May 6, 1948, in Dublin, Ireland; died on June 17, 2002, in Dublin, Ireland; joined group, 1973; married Catherine; three sons), accordion, melodeon, concertina, whistles, bones, spoons, vocals.
Group formed as duo with Eddie and Finbar Furey, 1960s; became the Fureys and Davey Arthur, 1980; released Winds of Change as the Fureys, 1992; Davey Arthur left group, 1993; released collection of songs written by silent-film star Charlie Chaplin, Chaplin Sings … The Fureys Sing Chaplin, 2002.
Awards: Australian Songwriters’ Association, Certificate of Appreciation, 1998; Finbar Furey: three-time winner, all-Ireland pipes championship.
Addresses: Publicist —McPherson Promotions, Level 2, Flinders St., Melbourne, Victoria 3000, Australia.
the brothers undertook an unusual project: recording the songs of silent film star Charlie Chaplin. Although Chaplin was world-famous for movies that did not involve the use of his voice, he was an accomplished songwriter, and when the brothers met his daughter Josephine, she asked them to perform the songs. According to Noel Baker in News of the World, Eddie said, “We weren’t too sure because a lot of the songs were very classical and quite different from our usual stuff.” However, they eventually agreed. The album, Chaplin Sings … The Fureys Sing Chaplin contains eight songs performed by the Fureys and eight original recordings made by Chaplin, as well as a speech Chaplin gave to accompany his film The Great Dictator.
In May of 2002 Paul was diagnosed with bladder cancer and underwent surgery to remove it. A few days later, however, he suffered a minor heart attack, and doctors determined that he also had a perforation of the bowel. These complications ultimately led to his death at Beaumont Hospital in Dublin on June 17, 2002. He had last performed five weeks earlier at the Irish Centre in Birmingham, England.
According to Paul Clarkson in the London Mirror, family friend Father Patrick Shiel said, “Paul played his music with a natural grace. He was a hard man on the road and he played across the world with Irish pride.” In another London Mirror article, Paul Martin quoted the group’s manager, Joe McCadden, who said, “Paul was one of the most energetic members of the band and he loved performing live.” He added, “None of them are millionaires but they made good money from their popularity and are one of the hardest-working bands around.” McCadden also told Martin that the group planned to stay together and continue recording and touring, saying, “I think they need some time to reflect on what has happened, but I would be surprised if this is the end of the road for the band.”
Eddie and Finbar Furey
A Dream in My Hand, Intercord, 1974.
Irish Folk Festival 1974, Intercord, 1974.
The 2nd Irish Folk Festival on Tour, Intercord, 1975.
The farewell Album, Intercord, 1976
I Know Where I’m Going, 1976.
The Town Is Not Their Own, 1976.
The Buskers, Ted Furey, and the Furey Family
The Life of a Man, 1973.
The Buskers, 1974.
The Furey Family, Intercord, 1977.
The Fureys and Davey Arthur
Emigrant, Polydor, 1977.
Morning on a Distant Shore, Polydor, 1977.
Banshee, Dolby, 1978.
The Sound of the Fureys and Davey Arthur, Polygram, 1980.
When You Were Sweet 16, Castle Classics, 1982.
Steal Away, Ritz, 1983.
Golden Days, K-Tel, 1984.
In Concert, Ritz, 1984.
At the End of a Perfect Day, K-Tel, 1985.
The First Leaves of Autumn, Ritz, 1986.
Red Rose Café/Irish Eyes/Sitting Alone, 1987.
Dublin Songs, AJK Music, 1988.
Poor Man’s Dream, 1988.
The Scattering, BMG/Ariola, 1988.
The Best of the Fureys and Davey Arthur, K-Tel, 1993.
Winds of Change, Shanachie, 1992.
May We All Someday Meet Again, 1996.
Twenty Years On, 1999.
The Essential Fureys, Erin, 2001.
Chaplin Sings … The Fureys Sing Chaplin, Brud Records, 2002.
Coventry Evening Telegraph (England), September 22, 2000, p. 62.
Express (London, England), June 18, 2002, p. 21.
Herald Sun (Melbourne, Australia), June 20, 2002, p. 9; June 24, 2002, p. 77.
Mirror (London, England), June 18, 2002, p. 8; June 20, 2002, p. 21, 22.
News of the World (London, England), May 5, 2002, p. 38.
Sun (London, England), July 25, 1997, p. 6.
Sunday Mail (Adelaide, Australia), July 13, 1997, p. 141.
Times (London, England), April 5, 1997, p. 4.
Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales), April 3, 2002, p. 12.
“The Fureys,” BBC Radio 2, http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio2/folk/artist_database/pages/fureysthe.shtml (November 17, 2002).
“The Fureys,” CentroHD, http://www.centrohd.com/biogra/f2/the_fureys_this_musical_family_g.htm (November 17, 2002).
“The Fureys Discography,” The Balladeers, http://www.theballadeers.com/fureys2_discography.htm (November 17, 2002).
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