Mary Black has been one of Ireland’s most successful and influential singers since the late 1970s.
She has won numerous awards and produced several albums that have achieved gold and platinum status.
Black is now known mainly for her distinguished solo career but she has also performed with different bands – most notably the Irish folk group De Dannan.
She has also performed and recorded with some of the world’s leading artists including Van Morrison, Joan Baez and Emmy Lou Harris.
Mix of folk, country and pop
Black is often associated with folk music but, although she has performed many folk songs, she doesn’t consider herself a folk singer.
In an interview with Irish Music Forever she said: “I never really was a traditional singer. I came from the heart of Dublin, but I had a strong interest in folk and traditional music in the early days.
“I think that left a strong mark on me as a performer because I think who you are in your formative years is the making of your style and who you become as an artist. So I definitely was influenced strongly by folk and traditional music and that’s why it will never leave me.
“I love it still as a punter. I love listening to other people’s music. But my style has evolved and changed.
A voice so pure it’s used in sound tests
Black was given the ultimate compliment by sound equipment magazine What Hi-Fi. They considered her voice to be so pure that they used it when comparing the sound quality of different systems.
That unique vocal quality has won her millions of fans all across the world.
Born into a musical family
Like so many other successful Irish artists, Black was born into a musical family. Her father was an accomplished fiddle player and her mother was a singer. Her brothers formed their own band called, The Black Brothers and her younger sister Frances also went on to have a successful career as a singer.
That legacy continues into the next generation with Black’s son Danny O’Reilly a prominent member of the Irish rock band, The Coronas.
Black began performing with her brothers in clubs around their native Dublin in the early 1970s. By the time she 20, she was already an experienced and confident performer.
General Humbert and performing outside Ireland
She then began to branch out and in 1975 she joined the Irish folk band, General Humbert.
They performed extensively throughout Ireland as well as touring the UK and Europe. Black recorded two albums with them before leaving to go solo. The albums were moderately successful and brought Black to the attention of some of the leading figures in the Irish music industry including Declan Sinnott, a member of the folk band Horslips.
Striking gold with debut solo album – Mary Black
Sinnott was impressed with Black’s vocal style and produced her first solo album, called simply Mary Black, in 1983. It was instant success and went gold.
It contained a mix of traditional and contemporary songs, and also took material from outside Ireland, including a brilliant version of the American tune, God Bless the Child. That willingness to mix songs from different styles and areas was to become a feature of Black’s style over the next 30 years.