Tommy Makem Biography

Guitarist, Singer (1932–2007)
Tommy Makem was a renowned Irish folk musician and singer known for his work with the Clancy Brothers and tunes like "Gentle Annie."


Born on November 4, 1932, in County Armagh, Northern Ireland, Tommy Makem became a singer and multi-instrumentalist who developed a folk music career in America, working with the Clancy Brothers and appearing on programs like The Ed Sullivan Show (1948-71). Known for songs like "Four Green Fields," he later did solo work and appeared as a duo with Liam Clancy. Makem died on August 1, 2007.

Early Life

Folk singer and musician Thomas "Tommy" Makem was born on November 4, 1932, in Keady, County Armagh, Northern Ireland, as the son of legendary folk singer Sarah Makem. Makem sang traditional Irish songs from a young age, though he aspired to be an actor. He moved to New York City to pursue drama, but instead launched a lucrative singing career, first performing in small bars in Greenwich Village. A talented musician, Makem played the long-necked five-string banjo, guitar, tin whistle and bagpipes. Makem was also well-known for his storytelling and witty humor on stage.

Clancy Brothers Collaboration

In the 1950s, Makem joined Tom, Liam and Patrick Clancy to form the Clancy Brothers with Tommy Makem. The foursome rode the wave of folk music's resurgence, signing with Columbia Records, and appearing regularly at Carnegie Hall and on The Ed Sullivan Show (1948-71). In 1975, Makem teamed with Liam Clancy, and the pair recorded and toured as a duo for more than a decade.


The internationally famous Irish folk singer died on August 1, 2007, after battling lung cancer. His sons Shane, Conor and Rory continued the family folk music tradition, going by "The Makem Brothers," along with nephew Tom Sweeney. He also had a daughter, Katie.

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