Joe Dolan Biography

16 October 1939, Mullingar, County Westmeath, Eire, d. 26 December 2007, Dublin, Eire. After appearing on local radio, Dolan began singing professionally in early 1962. His accomplished backing group, the Drifters, comprised his brother Ben Dolan (saxophone), Tommy Swarbrigg (trumpet), Jimmy Horan (bass), Joey Gilheaney (trumpet), Des Doherty (keyboards) and Donal ‘Sid’ Aughey (drums). After signing a record contract with Pye Records, the band recorded a promising cover version of Burt Bacharach’s ‘The Answer To Everything’, which reached the Irish Top 10 in 1964. During the mid-60s Dolan and the Drifters established themselves as one of the most successful Irish showbands of their era. At their peak they enjoyed a string of hits in Eire including ‘My Own Peculiar Way’, ‘Aching Breaking Heart’, ‘Two Of A Kind’, ‘Pretty Brown Eyes’, ‘The House With The Whitewashed Gable’ and ‘Tar And Cement’. The latter was unfortunate not to cross over into the UK charts, and was followed by the fragmentation of the original Drifters, several of whom reappeared in the Times.

It was not until Dolan recorded solo, with the specific intent of becoming successful in Britain, that he won through. Mike Hazelwood and Albert Hammond of the Family Dogg provided the crucial hit with ‘Make Me An Island’, which reached UK number 3 in the summer of 1969. Subsequent hits from the songwriting partnership included the plaintive ‘Teresa’ and the up-tempo ‘You’re Such A Good Looking Woman’. As late as 1976 Dolan was back at number 1 in the Irish charts with ‘Sister Mary’. The following year, ‘I Need You’ repeated the feat and also infiltrated the UK Top 50.

Dolan remained a popular performer on the Irish dancehall circuit, and in 1978 became the first western pop singer to play in Moscow at the height of the Cold War. He continued recording and touring into the new millennium, releasing albums on his own Gable Records label. He returned to the top of the Irish charts in 1997 with a bizarre version of ‘You’re Such A Good Looking Woman’ in duet with the puppet Dustin The Turkey. Dolan died of a brain haemorrhage in December 2007. Thousands of mourners attended his funeral in Mullingar, a testament to his enduring popularity.

Source: The Encyclopedia of Popular Music by Colin Larkin. Licensed from Muze.

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