“It’s A Great Honour”

Hot Press by The Hot Press Newsdesk (2008-01-18)

Ronnie Drew has heard the song that was recorded as a special tribute to him by U2, Kila, Simon Carmody and a cast of leading Irish musicians. He talks to Hot Press editor Niall Stokes about his reaction.

Ronnie Drew has spoken publicly for the first time about ‘The Ballad of Ronnie Drew’ – the song recorded by U2, Kila, Simon Carmody and a host of Irish artists, as exclusively revealed by Hot Press this week.

“It’s a great honour,” he said. “It doesn’t take itself too seriously and there’s a great, positive vibe off it. And, for me, it’s a great help because with the cancer you can begin to feel lonely when you’re not out doing things.”

Ronnie heard the song when a delegation including Bono, Edge and Simon Carmody called out to see him at his home in Greystones. It was, it turned out, a really pleasant surprise.

“Lance Hogan from Kila knows my son, Feilim, and so my son rang me and said ‘is it OK if Bono and them come out tomorrow night with a song?’ And he knew what it was about but he didn’t want to tell me, y’know. So he just said ‘I don’t know what it’s about, something to do with a song’. I thought they wanted me to join in on a song or something. So I didn’t know what it was all about when they arrived.”

It must have been a strange thing, hearing the first chorus coming round?

“Oh it was, yeah! I’m only human so naturally I was thrilled. I was knocked out now, to tell you the truth. I couldn’t believe it.”

The song is co-written by Robert Hunter of the Grateful Dead.

“I had heard of him alright,” Ronnie revealed, “but I didn’t know much about him. Bono was telling me all about him last night. I’m wondering how in the name of Christ he knew anything about me!”

I recounted Simon Carmody’s explanation – that great musicianss tend to know about other great musicians. Ronnie chuckled modestly. “Well, I was amazed at that,” he said, “and a bit chuffed as well. I’ve known Simon for quite a while.”

Simon was the co-writer with Bono of a song recorded by Ronnie on his 1995 album Dirty Rotten Shame. “That’s right,” Ronnie recalled. “It was called ‘Drinking In The Day’. About a guy on the gargle in town, y’know! I must say U2 have always shown me the height of respect, without overdoing it. They’ve always singled me out.”

Simon always said that one of the great things about Ireland is that music crosses all the boundaries.

“It does indeed,” Ronnie said. “There’s people from all aspects of the spectrum on the song. There’s Jack L, Sinead O’Connor, Christy Moore, Shane McGowan, Simon and so on. There’s a great atmosphere about it.”

As regards his health, Ronnie was upbeat when we spoke.

“Yeah, I’m getting on well and I’m getting good care and I’m hoping for the best. I’m not that bad, I’m getting out more now than I have been. But I was tremendously pleased and honoured with this, y’know. Something like that really gives you a lift.”

*‘The Balled of Ronnie Drew’ will be released as a single, with the official release date likely to be in March. Proceeds from the sale of the record will be donated to a cancer charity.

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