Shane MacGowan, Pogues Songwriter Who Fused Punk and Irish Rebellion, Dies at 65

Shane MacGowan, the brilliant but chaotic former songwriter and frontman for the Pogues who reinvigorated interest in Irish music in the 1980s by harnessing it to the propulsive power of punk rock, has died. He was 65.

Mr. MacGowan’s wife, Victoria Mary Clarke, announced his death on Instagram. She did not provide additional details. A joint statement from the family that was shared on one of the band’s social media accounts said he died early Thursday. “Prayers and the last rites were read, which gave comfort to his family,” the statement said.

Mr. MacGowan emerged from London’s punk scene of the late 1970s and spent nine tumultuous years with the initial incarnation of the Pogues. Rising from North London pubs, the band was performing in stadiums by the late 1980s, before Mr. MacGowan’s addictions and mental and physical deterioration forced the band to fire him. He later founded Shane MacGowan & the Popes, with whom he recorded and toured in the 1990s.

Along the way, Mr. MacGowan earned twin reputations as a titanically destructive personality and a master songsmith whose lyrics painted vivid portraits of the underbelly of Irish emigrant life. His best-known are the opening lines of his biggest hit, an alcoholics’ lament-turned-unlikely Christmas classic titled “Fairytale of New York.”

It was Christmas Eve babe
In the drunk tank
An old man said to me, won’t see another one

“I was good at writing,” Mr. MacGowan told Richard Balls, who wrote his authorized biography “A Furious Devotion,” which was published in 2021. “I can write, I can spell, I can make it flow and when I mixed it with music, it was perfect.”

In addition to his wife, Mr. MacGowan is survived by his sister, Siobhan, and his father, Maurice.

A full obituary will be published shortly.

Derrick Bryson Taylor contributed reporting.