The Dubliners released nine successful studio albums between 1964 and 1973.
Drew then left the group in 1974 to concentrate on his solo career. He released two albums – Ronnie Drew, and Guaranteed before rejoining The Dubliners in 1979.
Over the next 15 years, the group worked hard and partied hard. They released five more albums and toured all over the world.
In 1987, they performed a duet of the Irish Rover with The Pogues, which helped to spark interest in them from a new generation.
New musical direction
In 1995, Drew left The Dubliners for the second time. Again he wanted to pursue a solo career and create a different kind of music. His third solo album, Dirty Rotten Things, was released in 1995 and had more of a rock style than his previous work.
As a solo performer he worked with several top artists including Christy Moore, The Pogues and The Dropkick Murphys. He released seven more solo albums including two with former De Dannan singer, Eleanor Shanley.
He spent much of his time touring and putting on one man shows in which he would have the audience hanging on his every word as he told stories about Irish literary giants such as Brendan Behan, Patrick Kavanagh and Seán O’Casey. He sang songs they had written along with his own material.
Narrating Irish myths and legends
His story telling ability gave him the opportunity to narrate a CD boxset of Irish myths and legends which was released in 2006, and the stories of Oscar Wilde in a series that was distributed by the News of the World newspaper.
In 2006, Drew was added to the Walk of Fame at the Gaiety Theatre in Dublin. Later that year he had to go to hospital to receive treatment for throat cancer. He made a recovery but suffered heartbreak when his wife of 40 years, Deirdre, died the following year.
The Ballad of Ronnie Drew
Several of the world’s top musicians including Sinéad O’Connor, Shane MacGowan, Chris de Burgh, Mary Black, Bob Geldof, The Dubliners, The Chieftains and many more collaborated to record ‘The Ballad of Ronnie Drew’ as a tribute to him.
He had planned to sing on the track himself but his health was declining and he was unable to take part. The song was released in February 2008 and reached number two in the Irish charts. The profits went to The Irish Cancer Society. Drew died six months later on 16th August 2008.
He will always be remembered as one of Ireland’s greatest singers, both for his solo work and for his work with the Dubliners.