Pogues guitarist loses cancer battle at 56

Shelley Marsden

Phil Chevron, the guitarist, singer and songwriter for the Celtic punk band The Pogues, died on Tuesday (September 8) in Dublin following a long-fought battle with head and throat cancer. He was 56.

Chevron, whose real name was Philip Ryan was diagnosed with throat cancer in the summer of 2007. A new tumour deemed inoperable by doctors was found in August 2012.

From Santry, Dublin, Chevron was a founding member of pivotal Irish punk band, The Radiators From Space, formed in 1976. Their album Ghostown (1979), with the song Faithful Departed is seen as a seminal Irish record.

After the group split up, Chevron moved to London in 1981 and joined Shane MacGowan’s  Pogues as guitarist and sometime songwriter.

He played on the now classic 1985’s Rum, Sodomy and the Lash (1985), the album which confirmed him as a full-time rather than temporary band member and solidified the group’s standing in the UK and America. The Pogues are playing the album its entirety this Christmas on a few select UK dates.

For The Pogues’ third album, If I Should Fall From Grace With God(1988), Chevron wrote and performed one of their best-loved tunes,  the lyrical Irish immigrant ballad Thousands Are Sailing. He also penned Blue Heavenb and Lorelei for the following album, Peace and Love.

He left The Pogues in 1994, getting back together with his old Radiators bandmates for a spell, before rejoining boisterous Anglo-Irish band in 2001, when he oversaw the re-mastering of their 80s albums.

The guitarist continued to play live with the band throughout that decade, as and when health allowed.

Mr Chevron was last seen publicly for a fundraiser testimonial in August, in which  actor Aidan Gillen and writer Roddy Doyle joined fifteen live acts, including Shane MacGowan, Horslips and Paul Brady, to pay tribute to the ailing guitarist.

Also present at the tribute was author Joseph O’Connor, who said that, though he had never met him, he considered Chevron a musical hero.

“Philip Chevron is one of the greatest Irish songwriters of all time, certainly the best of my generation, an artist of a unique and absolutely compelling sensibility.

“Ever since my teens, his work has meant a great deal to me. I have enormous admiration for his achievements. His song ‘Faithful Departed’ sums up everything about growing up in the Ireland of my childhood. Then there’s his magnificent writing on the Radiators ‘Ghost Town’ album.

“Not to mention everything he’s done with The Pogues. I have never met Philip but I feel I’ve known him since I was 15. To any Irish person of my age who loves music, Philip is nothing less than a hero,” Joseph O’Connor told the Herald at the time.

The musician is survived by his sister and his mother.


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