IMRO member Pete St John has been honoured by the Variety Club of Ireland, presenting him with their first ever Gold Heart Award for his outstanding contribution to Irish poetry and song.
The award was recently made to Pete at a special gathering at the Grand Hotel in Malahide during which some of Ireland’s top cabaret artists, including Joe Cuddy and Sonny Knowles, sang some of their favourite songs as a prelude to a special performance of the Pete St John Songbook. Pete was also presented with a sprecially-painted portrait of himself, with the fields of Athenry appropriately visible in the background, by the artist Yvonne Loftus-Kelly.
Eamon Carr, Horslips drummer and fellow IMRO member, made the pertinent point to MQ that “many of Pete’s songs, such as ‘The Fields of Athenry’, ‘Dublin In The Rare Oul Times’ and ‘The Ferryman’, have become such an accepted part of the Irish folk tradtion that many people actually think of them as traditional songs and not contemporary compositions at all. That simply proves how deeply imbued Pete St John is in the tradition of Irish folk music that stretches back to the 12th century and beyond.“
As Pete himself said, “It’s a great honour for me to receive this award from The Variety Club of Ireland, especially as I have admired the great work they have been doing down through the years. But I’ve also been given terrific support by many talented poeple in the music industry who recorded and sang my songs and took them around the world.”
IMRO Chairman Keith Donald pointed out that “not only is Pete an amazingly gifted songwriter and a highly valued member of IMRO, but he’s also done a lot of charity work for a number of different causes and has enthusiastically espoused the interests of Irish songwriters behind the scenes. At one stage he fronted the Songwriters’ Association during a very crucial period in the eighties and nineties, very ably lobbying the relevant organisations and representing the interests of Irish songwriters in dealing first with PRS and then with IMRO.”
Indeed, a list of artists who have recorded Pete St John songs reads like a Who’s Who of the Irish music scene, including as it does The Dubliners, Paddy Reilly, Frank Patterson, Danny Doyle, Johnny McEvoy, Mary Black, Dublin City Ramblers, Luke Kelly, Ronnie Drew, The Barleycorn, Sonny Knowles, Brendan Shine, Daniel O’Donnell and countless others.
Pete St John was born in Dublin, and he began writing songs after his return to his native city from the USA in the late 70’s to find a city greatly changed, and not necessarily for the better. He began reflecting these changes in songs that, between his own versions and those recorded by other artists, have clocked up record sales in millions and been sung by millions in both professional and informal music sessions around the globe. Apart from this new award from the Variety Club of Ireland, Pete has received several awards down through the years, including the IMRO Irish Songwriter of the Year, and continues to write as prolifically as ever.