Joe Dolan: Wikis


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Joe Dolan

Photo from the cover of "Make Me an Island" LP
Born Joseph Francis Robert Dolan
October 16, 1939(1939-10-16)
Mullingar, County Westmeath, Ireland
Died December 26, 2007 (aged 68)
Mater Hospital, Dublin, Ireland.
Cause of death Brain hemorrhage
Occupation Singer

Joseph "Joe" Francis Robert Dolan (16 October 1939 – 26 December 2007) was an Irish compositer, entertainer, recorder and singer of easy listening songs.


Life and career

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.

A record-breaking statesman of Irish popular music, Joe is the only Irish entertainer to have enjoyed Top Ten hits in five decades across two centuries - the 1960s, 1970s, 1980s, 1990s and 2000s. Indeed, when you combine the total number of weeks the man from Mullingar spent in the upper reaches of the Irish singles charts it equates to a residency of over ten full years.

Joe hit the top spot throughout the world. From Europe to the Middle East, Joe enjoyed number one singles in South America, Australia, Asia and beyond. Countries as culturally diverse as France, South Africa, Israel, Germany, Holland, Belgium, Brazil, Argentina, Australia, Turkey, Iran, Lebanon, Italy, Portugal and several other European states all put Joe at the top. His biggest hit was "Make Me An Island" (written by Albert Hammond and Mike Hazlewood), which went to Number 3 in the UK Singles Chart in 1969, and Number 1 in fourteen other countries. When re-released in the 1990’s it once again hit the number one spot, albeit just in Ireland.

Joe was noted for his extraordinary vocal style. The strength and power of his distinctive singing voice was noted even as a 14 year old, when he made his first stage appearance at a talent show in his native Mullingar.

The youngest of eight children, Joe Dolan was born into a musical household on the outskirts of Mullingar, Co. Westmeath on October 16, 1939. Joe lost both his parents at a young age - his father, a bicycle shop proprietor, died when Joe was eleven; his mother when he was nineteen. Music had abounded throughout the family’s modest cottage and young Joe was not shy in showcasing his growing vocal and musical talents to family and friends. He sang a bit in school, and his mother had encouraged him to take up the piano, but it was at the afformentioned teenage talent show in Mullingar when that the world at large got its first true glimpse of Joe Dolan the entertainer. Even then, on his first stage appearance, he cut a distinctive dash – his confident singing, dancing, and his sharp dress sense a sign of what was to come.

As well as securing his first (and last) “real” job as a compositor in local newspaper The Westmeath Examiner in 1958, Joe also got his first real guitar, and he and his saxophone-playing brother Ben started to play in local bands. They soon formed a band of their own – The Drifters. At first, it was all-for-one and one-for-all in the seven-piece, but Joe’s powerful voice, stage presence and growing heart-throb status among female fans saw them hastily rechristened Joe Dolan and The Drifters.

The musical landscape in the 1960s was dominated by the showbands and their jukebox-perfect interpretations of songs by acts the Irish public might never get to see. The Drifters soon became the number one showband in the land, but from the off, Joe broke the mould. He was the first Irish pop star to record original material and the first Irish singer to create scenes of mass hysteria among fans, with ‘Driftermania’ becoming a national epidemic. First single “The Answer to Everything”, released in September 1964, shot to number 4 in the charts and Joe and his band, guided by manager Seamus Casey, soon took the dancehalls and ballrooms of Ireland by storm, with a string of massive hit singles making them Ireland’s biggest band. But in the summer of 1968, the nation was shocked as musical differences saw the band split at the peak of their powers.

The move left Joe alone, but not for long as success soon washed over him again when he recorded “Make Me an Island”, a song that would lay the foundations for an international career. The track was a massive hit in England and after an historic Top of the Pops appearance the floodgates opened across Europe and around the world – the song eventually becoming a number one hit in an unprecedented 14 countries.

Joe became an even bigger worldwide star with follow-up singles “Teresa” and “You’re Such a Good Looking Woman”. Although singles such as “It Makes No Difference” and “You and the Looking Glass” were not big hits at home or in the UK, they were international smashes for Joe. When he hooked up with writers Roberto Danova and Peter Yellowstone in the mid 1970s things went off the scale for him internationally – 1974's “Sweet Little Rock ‘n’ Roller” their first of many triumphs. It was later recorded by Bay City Rollers and Rod Stewart.

It was followed by one of Joe’s biggest-ever sellers, the evocative “Lady in Blue”. His biggest ever selling single, it danced its way to the top of charts across Europe, Australasia, Africa and South America but, surprisingly, not at home or in the UK. It sold millions abroad. Massive international hits including “Crazy Woman”, “Sister Mary”, “Midnight Lover”, “Hush Hush Maria” and “I Need You” followed. Reflective songs such as “If I Could Put My Life on Paper” showcased a more maturing artist, whilst definitive versions of songs such as “Danny Boy” ensured his international audiences always had a touch of Irish on disc and in concert. In any given month Joe could be touring the Middle East one week, Australia the next, then South Africa and then back to Europe and his beloved Ireland. And as the hits stacked up so too did gold discs, awards, major record deals and opportunities.

In 1978, he made history when he became the first Western act to tour communist Russia. In those pre-Perestroika days, Western music was not as welcome, but Joe’s music broke through the Iron Curtain and he was welcomed as one of the best known names in Russia. Further international successes and tours followed, with hits such as “More and More” and “It’s You, It’s You, It’s You” ensuring he had little time to keep his feet on the ground.

The eighties was a time transition for Joe. He started the decade by conquering Las Vegas for two years. But he never liked to be away from home for too long and having started the decade as one of the world’s biggest acts he decided to concentrate instead on his beloved Ireland. He continued to record and release dozens of hits as the decade went on, and a couple of changes in musical direction did little to affect the devotion of his loyal fans.

A master of the art of live performance, Joe developed a feel-good show; his white suit, trademark signature tie and big-hearted songs bringing light into the lives of his 32-county audience and those in the UK and Europe where he still toured. Joe became part of what made Ireland feel good about itself as the 1990s dawned. He may not have met with the approval of the chin-stroking music critics, but he certainly met with the approval of the millions who knew ‘there was no show like a Joe Show’. Practically, every single concert Joe performed was a sell out. His nightly box office pulling power was all the more astonishing given that he played, on average, around 200 Irish shows a year from the 1980s onwards. For his audience, they were all once-in-a-lifetime shows. No Joe Show was ever the same.

With his own record label, studio and material Joe became one of the biggest selling independent artists of the 1990s with albums such as ‘Endless Magic’ keeping him on top. At the end of the decade he refined his voice for the 21st century when he hooked up with EMI for a series of pioneering and highly influential albums (such as ‘Joe’s 90s’, ‘21st Century Joe’ and ‘Home Grown’) which saw him tackle more contemporary music from acts as diverse as Oasis, Pulp, Blur, U2, Bruce Springsteen, The Coral, R.E.M., Mundy and his old pal Robbie Williams (Joe was a good friend of Robbie’s father, and he often stayed at the Williams home when in the UK). He brought Blur to the top of the Irish charts with a soul-stirring version of “The Universal”. It became a staple of his live shows. At the Oxegen Festival 2009, Blur’s Damon Albarn dedicated the song to Joe.

With the success of “Joe’s 90s” Joe found himself to be a relevant entertainer for a whole new generation and not just another old ‘legend’ trading on past glories. He was a star all over again. What pleased Joe most about this ‘reinvention’ was that it did not damage his reputation or debunk his past achievements. If anything, it made them all the more impressive and, finally, Joe began to be acknowledged by his peers for his contribution to Irish music history. Other acts such as his old pal Tom Jones repeated the formula by releasing albums of contemporary covers.

As an artist, Joe Dolan was never one to stay wrapped up in the comfort of the past. He took whatever risks were necessary to further his career, and was always willing to give up-and-coming music people a break. Some of the songwriters, producers and arrangers Joe worked with reads like a who’s who of modern music - hit men of the highest calibre who were only starting out when Joe spotted their potential. The likes of Albert Hammond, Roberto Danova, Giorgio Moroder, Peter Yellowstone, Roger Cook, Roger Greenaway, Jeff Lynne, Tony Swain, Liam Reilly, Phil Coulter and many more may not be household names but they have been responsible for hundreds of the world’s best-known songs and artists. Joe was even recording songs from the pens of Willie Nelson and Burt Bacharach long before anyone on the European side of the Atlantic had even heard of either man.

Joe turned his attention to the music of established legends when he recorded “Let There Be Love”- an album of old-school crooner classics perfectly suited to his smooth and still powerful voice. Plans were set in motion for further albums and some major concerts to cement his legendary status and as 2007 came to a close the clamour for Joe’s concert tickets was greater than ever.

At the Meteor Music Awards on February 16, 2008, two months after his sudden passing, the music industry paid the first of many tributes to him. A couple of thousand screaming teenagers, there to hail the biggest Irish pop stars of the day, were reminded that none of these Irish acts would have been there, or at least would not have had the inspiration or the confidence to get there were it not for Joe Dolan first travelling that path.

By going abroad, making it and returning home with stacks of gold discs and glory, awards and acclaim, Joe Dolan had made the dreams of international success possible for Irish acts. Budding musicians didn’t need to think that Cork, Galway or Belfast were the pinnacle of success any longer. They could go away, become a star, enjoy it and then return home and, like Joe, be humble and modest about it all.

As a man, his warm spirit and his inherent and legendary capacity to ‘send ‘em home sweating’ is perfectly captured on last years “Platinum Collection” release by EMI. Across the 58 tracks on 3CDs, it is Joe’s amazing voice, an instrument which left classical composers and opera singers speechless at its range, that will ensure he is a legend who will live forever.


Before Joe died, he had been working on his memoirs with Irish journalist, author and broadcaster Ronan Casey. After his passing, these were released by Penguin as “Joe Dolan: The Official Biography.” The book was a critical and commercial success in Ireland, and it was rated by the listeners of RTE’s Joe Duffy show as one of their Top Ten books of the year. It was released on paperback in June 2009 and was launched in the UK with a night in honour of Joe at the Boogaloo in Highgate. Pete Doherty, The Aftermath and Dire Straits founding member John Illsley were among those in attendance at the UK launch.

Personal life

Joe Dolan never married and dealt with speculation about his sexuality throughout his life. However, he dismissed rumours that he was gay as a "load of old rubbish".[1]

Illness and death

In 2005, Dolan had a hip replacement. In autumn 2007, on advice from his doctors, Dolan cancelled his Vicar Street concerts due to "exhaustion".[2] On December 16, 2007, the front page of the Sunday Independent reported that Dolan was suffering from a "bad virus" and had been forced to cancel his entire Christmas tour.[3] Joe Dolan's website was inundated with well wishes in the wake of the article, which was reproduced in several newspapers the following day.

On December 26, 2007, Dolan was rushed from his home in Foxrock to the Mater Private Hospital in Dublin following a worsening of his illness. He died of a brain hemorrhage at approximately 15:00 hours that day.[2][4][5]

Hit songs (partial list)

  • 1964: "The Answer to Everything"
  • 1965: "I Love You More and More Everyday"
  • 1967: "The House With the Whitewashed Gable"
  • 1968: "The Westmeath Bachelor"
  • 1969: "Make Me An Island"
  • 1969: "Teresa"
  • 1970: "You're Such a Good Looking Woman"
  • 1975: "Lady in Blue" / "My Darling Michelle"
  • 1976: "Sister Mary" Duet with Kelly Marie
  • 1976: "You Belong to Me"
  • 1977: "I Need You"
  • 1981: "More and More"
  • 1981: "It's You It's You It's You"
  • 1983 "Sometimes When We Touch"
  • 1984 "Come Back Home"
  • 1988 "Take Me I'm Yours"
  • 1989 "Wait 'til The Clouds Roll By (Jenny)"
  • 1990 "She Doesn't Live Here Anymore"
  • 1993 "Ciara"
  • 1994 "Somebody To Call My Girl"
  • 1996 "I'll Give All My Love To You"
  • 1997 "Endless Magic"
  • 1997 "Good Looking Woman" (Duet With Dustin)
  • 1998 "The Universal"
  • 1998 "Disco 2000"
  • 1998 "Place Your Hands"
  • 1999 "Everybody Hurts"
  • 1999 "Brilliant Disguise"
  • 2001 "Better Man"
  • 2002 "Dreaming Of You"
  • 2003 "Yours Faithfully"
  • 2004 "Little Green Bag"
  • 2007 (4 track Tribute EP)
  • 2008 "Oh Holy Night"

Studio Albums

  • The Answer To Everything (1964)
  • Make Me an Island
  • You're Such a Good Looking Woman
  • Lady in Blue
  • Sister Mary
  • Midnight Lover
  • Turn Out the Light
  • More and More
  • Here and Now
  • This Is My Life
  • Always on My Mind
  • Always Loved You
  • Can't Give Enough (1993)
  • Endless Magic (1997)
  • Joe's 90's (1998)
  • 21st Century Joe (1999)
  • Home Grown (2003)
  • Double 'O' Joe (2004)
  • Let There Be Love (2007)
  • Singles+ (2007)
  • The Platinum Collection (2008)


External links

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