Spotlight on: Mary Black – A legend in her own time
Mention the name Mary Black in almost any country in the world and you are sure to strike a chord with the many people who adore her amazing distinctive voice which has made her one of the most celebrated Irish vocalists of her generation. Indeed the extended Black Family name has been synonymous with good music over the past several decades.
Mary Black was born in Dublin’s inner city, and was influenced from an early age by her Mother who possessed a fine singing voice, and her Father who played the Fiddle.
Mary started learning and singing traditional Irish songs from the age of 8 and as she grew older began performing with her siblings Shay, Michael, and Martin in small Clubs around her native Dublin.
Her first foray into the professional scene was with a Band called General Humbert. However, in 1983 her star was in the ascendant when she joined forces with Declan Sinnott and released her debut Album to great acclaim – reaching No. 4 in the Irish Charts and winning her the Irish Independent Arts Award for Music.
The legendary Band De Danann was the next chapter on Mary’s musical journey, with whom she recorded two more Albums. Several more recordings followed making her a household name throughout Ireland.
Fans went wild for Mary’s 1989 release ‘No Frontiers’ which opened up the international market for her, generating Tours and Album sales all over Europe, the USA, Australia and Japan. The Album rocketed to the top of the Irish Album Charts where it stayed in the Top 30 for over twelve months, and gained triple platinum status.
Following on from the success of No Frontiers in the USA, and the extensive airplay generated by the title track ‘Columbus’, Mary joined the NAC Record Label. Her next release Babes in the Wood entered the Irish Charts at No. 1 and held that position for six weeks. The Song Thorn Upon the Rose was used in a Japanese National Railroad TV advert and subsequently reached No. 8 in the Japanese Singles Charts.
The Holy Ground Album followed and Mary’s next project was A Woman’s Heart which saw a whole host of Irish female Artists join forces to produce what was one of the most successful Albums of the 90s. Her fellow contributors were her sister Frances, Eleanor McEvoy, Dolores Keane, Sharon Shannon, and Maura O Connell. Mary also joined forces with Folk great Joan Baez on two duets on Joan’s Album Ring Them Bells. Another collaboration which readers will remember is the popular Sonny’s Dream which was written by Newfoundlander Ron Hynes and recorded by Mary, Dolores Keane, and Emmylou Harris.
During those years, she was simultaneously recording and releasing her own Solo Albums and Singles.
Meanwhile, Mary was also burning up the miles with an incredibly busy schedule performing at Concerts and Festivals in Ireland, England, Scotland, Wales, throughout Europe, the USA, along with far flung destinations like Japan and Australia.
She was also picking up a myriad of awards along the way, the list is endless;
- 1983: Irish Independent Arts Award
- 1986: National Entertainment Awards / Best Female Artist
- 1987: I.R.M.A. – Best Female Artist (Irish Recorded Music Awards)
- 1988: I.R.M.A. – Best Female Artist
- 1992: I.R.M.A. – Best Female Artist
- 1993: Hot Press Awards – Best Irish Solo Artist
- 1993: National Entertainment Personality of the Year
- 1994: I.R.M.A. – Best Female Artist
- 1994: I.R.M.A. – Best Irish Album/The Holy Ground
- 1994: Belfast Telegraph E.M.A. – Best Irish Solo Artist
- 1996: I.R.M.A. – Best Female Artist.
- 2000: Irish Music Magazine – Best Female Folk Artist
- 2001: Irish Music Magazine – Best Female Folk Artist
- 2003: Irish Music Magazine – Best Contemp. Female Artist
- 2005: Irish Music Magazine – Best Female Folk Artist
- 2006:The Irish Post — Lifetime Achievement Award
In 2005, Mary recorded Full Tide in West Kerry, her first Studio Album in six years, which saw her debut some of her own material. On the 25th Anniversary of her first Solo Album in 2008, 25 Years/25 Songs was released, with two new songs added. This testament to a quarter century of performing and recording immediately jumped to No 1 in the Irish Charts, remained in the Irish Top 40 for over seven months, and received extensive airplay on Radio Stations all over the world.
In 2012, Mary was busy promoting her new Album – Stories from the Steeples, which is described as ‘an intimate unpretentious collection, bathed in a soft but radiant glow of effortlessness and wholehearted integrity.’
Current news about the legend that is Mary Black is equally exciting;
The Black Family – Mary, Shay, Michael, Martin, and Frances will receive an award from iBam, which celebrates the best Irish writers, artists, and musicians, in the Erin Ballroom at the Irish Heritage Centre in Chicago on Saturday, October 12th, which will be followed by a Concert on October 13th.
Next March Mary will team up with Clannad in a series of Concerts across the UK where both Marie Brennan and Mary will perform separate sets and also a series of numbers together.
And a final word from Mary;
“Music has been so good to me, I’ve loved touring the world for the last thirty years. I have made so many friends and have countless fond memories from different corners of the globe. So to my fans everywhere I’d like to thank you and let you know that I hope to get back again to all my favourite places in 2014, including Australia and Canada, for one last big tour – The Last Call.’”
Mary is married to Joe O Reilly, they have two sons Conor and Danny and a daughter Roisín. The musical legend lives on with Danny who is an incredible singer/songwriter and lead Singer with the Coronas, and also Roisín who performs under the stage name of Roisín Ó.