In 1974, the Dubliners’ Ciaran Bourke fell ill.
Although the band already had two singers in Luke Kelly and Ronnie Drew, they liked to perform long shows and give their audiences plenty of variety.
They preferred to have three singers and so Kelly asked fellow Dublin musician Jim McCann to fill in while Bourke recovered.
McCann soon established himself as an equal to the other members of the band, all of whom were towering figures in their own field.
His soft tenor voice was a good counterfoil to the powerful vocals of Luke Kelly and the gruff baritone of Ronnie Drew.
McCann was the lead vocalist on the songs like Carrickfergus and Spancil Hill, which were always a huge hit with live audiences.
When Drew left to pursue his solo career, McCann shared vocal duties with Kelly as they waited for Bourke to return. Sadly, Bourke never did recover and so McCann joined the group on a permanent basis.
He still managed to find time to keep in touch with his acting and played the narrator in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat.
McCann toured the world with The Dubliners and recorded four studio albums before leaving in 1979.
Continuing his solo career
After leaving the Dubliners, McCann continued with his solo career. He released the album, Jim McCann in 1980 which featured the Dubliners’ John Sheahan on the fiddle.
In 1983 he was reunited with The Dubliners when they invited him to help them record a video they were making for the RTE network’s festival folk series.
McCann released five solo albums after leaving The Dubliners and made numerous TV appearances. The album Grace and other Love Songs were particular highlights.
Dubliners’ 40th anniversary album
In 2002, McCann rejoined The Dubliners for their 40th anniversary. They recorded a new album, 40 Years, which contained a mixture of old and new songs, and went on tour.
Sadly McCann couldn’t complete the tour as he was diagnosed with throat cancer. He had treatment which successfully dealt with the illness but left him unable to sing.
Jim McCann passed away on 5 March 2015 aged 70. His former bandmate John Sheehan said: “He had a beautiful voice. “We travelled the world together and we always had great times together.”