Margo O'Donnell is an Irish singer who has captivated audiences with her powerful voice and heartfelt performances for over five decades. Born on February 6, 1951, in County Donegal, Ireland, Margo has become one of the most beloved and influential figures in the Irish music scene. Her unique blend of traditional Irish music with country and folk elements has earned her a devoted fanbase and numerous accolades throughout her career.
Margo's musical journey began at a young age, as she grew up in a musical family. Her parents, Julia and James O'Donnell, were both accomplished musicians, and Margo's four siblings were also talented singers and musicians. Growing up in this environment, Margo was exposed to a wide variety of music, from traditional Irish songs to American country music. She quickly developed a love and passion for music, and her family encouraged and supported her to pursue a career in the industry.
At the age of 13, Margo won a singing competition in her hometown of Kincasslagh, which led to her first professional performance at a local dance hall. This marked the beginning of her music career, and she soon became a regular performer at various venues throughout Ireland. In 1964, at the age of 13, she released her first single, 'Bonny Irish Boy,' which quickly became a hit and launched her into the spotlight.
Margo's rise to fame continued as she released more successful singles and albums throughout the 1960s and 1970s. She became a household name in Ireland, and her popularity spread to other countries, including the United Kingdom and the United States. Her unique voice and emotional delivery of songs, such as 'The Boys from the County Armagh' and 'The Irish Soldier Laddie,' captured the hearts of audiences worldwide.
One of the defining moments in Margo's career came in 1970 when she was invited to perform at the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville, Tennessee. This prestigious invitation marked her as the first Irish female artist to perform at the iconic venue, solidifying her status as an international star. She continued to tour and perform in the United States throughout the 1970s, gaining a dedicated following and earning critical acclaim for her live performances.
In the 1980s, Margo's career took a new direction as she began to incorporate more country and folk influences into her music. This shift in her style widened her audience and brought her success on both sides of the Atlantic. Her 1981 album, 'The Girl from Donegal,' became a huge hit and cemented her as a leading figure in the Irish country music scene.
Throughout the 1990s and 2000s, Margo continued to release successful albums and tour extensively. She also collaborated with other Irish artists, such as Daniel O'Donnell and Phil Coulter, on various projects. In 2003, she was awarded the prestigious Lifetime Achievement Award at the Irish World Music Awards, recognizing her significant contributions to the Irish music industry.
Margo's impact and influence on Irish music cannot be overstated. She has paved the way for many other Irish female artists to break into the industry and has helped to popularize Irish music on a global scale. Her powerful vocals and emotionally charged performances have touched the hearts of audiences of all ages and backgrounds, making her a true icon in the world of music.
Aside from her music career, Margo is also known for her philanthropic work and her dedication to promoting Irish heritage and culture. She has been involved in numerous charity events and fundraisers, using her platform to support various causes and give back to her community.
In conclusion, Margo O'Donnell is a legendary figure in the world of Irish music. Her talent, passion, and dedication have made her a household name in Ireland and beyond. Her music has stood the test of time and continues to inspire and entertain audiences worldwide. As she continues to perform and record music, Margo's legacy as one of the greatest Irish singers of all time will undoubtedly live on for generations to come.
Margo O'Donnell interview on Irishradio.org
I spoke to many entertainers singers and performers since the lockdown and all of that actually spoke to my next guest's a brother on the program, Daniel O'Donnell back a couple of months ago in lockdown now my next guest is a lady who has sold in excess of a million records her career goes back to 1964 has performed and recorded in the 60s 70s 80s 90s and this last two decades as well I'm delighted to say a big hello to the one and only Margo Margo O'Donnell. How are you ? I'm very good Jerry and it's great to talk to you so thank you for having me on your program. it's a real pleasure a real real pleasure and you you you started off 1964 was your first recording 19 yeah in 1964 i started with a a show band from home underneath all the keynotes and I was still going to school at that time I was just almost 13 and there they were at length that time and there was no dances in ireland so the bands were always off you know so the keynotes uh they used to take part in little drama things in the parochial halls and one was taking place in my local hall of Mary's in Concassla and of course the priest was involved and I sang in the choir.
So I was singing at these little concerts that they had during lent and that's where I got to know the keynotes and they were all local fellas from around where I came from so I knew their families and everything and then their their lead singer he was as my mother said he was leaving to get a proper job. He was joining the guards and I had come back, I was over a picking potatoes in Scotland in Airshire with my brother John and a lot of people from west Mayo and and north Kerry and Donegal especially went in the summer months to, they called it the tatihokan we picked potatoes all along the Airshare coast and down onto the borders of England and kelso so I came back. I always say I came back from Scotland on the Saturday and on the Sunday the keynotes came to the house asking my mother, my father was working in Scotland at the time and asking her if I, if she would let me sing with them at weekends and school holidays and that so then she talked it over with dad and and I joined them in October and the rest is just the supposes to say it's history but I was earning 10 Shillings tonight, every night I went out with them and and I never ever looked at it as a career.
It wasn't it was something I was doing that was fun and I enjoyed it immensely, and I was getting to dances when all my school friends were at home and and weren't allowed to go to dances so I had a lot to tell all the school friends you know on a Monday morning or whatever I'd have been out maybe on the Friday and the Saturday so it was a thing that I did with a group of guys from home and and then we recorded our very first single the bonnie Irish boy which was a song that was given to me by my dad. My dad was a lovely singer and he he knew an awful lot of the old ballads and the old folky ballads and he he taught me that song and that was our first record and it and it was released actually the morning that my father died. He never heard it and I suppose that that day that was he was dead 52 years yesterday as I speak to you.
And he was 48 years of age, and that day changed my life forever. I was the second a second eldest of a family of five, five kids and when he was gone there was no there was no money coming in and it was just John, my eldest brother and myself that were able to take home some money. So I started threw myself full belt into the the band then at the time and after the bonny Irish boy, I followed it up with a song called the road by the river and that I could see the world through the age of a child and I got offered then from a Dublin promoter a new band on the road and a hundred pound a week with a car and a driver and I promised my father on the morning that he died never ever thinking that this man was going to pass away that I would look after mom and and my siblings.
And when I talked it over mom this was the door that opened that I was able to do that and I carried the promise. Maybe Jerry, at times I carried it too seriously and too far till it weighed down on me. What a great heavy weight and you know it led me into a wrong footing for a couple of years. But I was able to rear my siblings and look after mom and I was there in the music business full time. But it wasn't, it wasn't what I dreamed of. I always wanted to be a nurse and get married and settle down and have a few kids but you know that wasn't the way life was supposed to go so that's the gist of the stories the mantis and the rest the rest has been wrecked many times indeed indeed uh it was uh you know at that time I mean a hundred pounds a week was plus a car in the driver.
I mean that was absolutely huge money back then, it was colossal money. It really was big big money and that was the answer to our problems to my mom and and my family's problems. And I wasn't really aware of the the impact that Margo. Had you know with the people in the music business so when i talk about i always uh separate uh Margaret O'Donnell from marvel i'm very grateful to Margo for all the things that she gave me and give my mother and my family and that but it was a it was a life that was totally alien to me. I was, I was born and done it all in the heart and soul of of the country where everything was safe and everything was simple and everything was easy and and and I was, I was trust into this big time in Dublin. I remember saying to the the promoter could I take the keynotes with me and he said no that's not in the deal and I remember on a, on a very very dark cold November evening and leaving Donegal with a little suitcase and heading for Dublin, where I started rehearsals with my new band the country folk and I was, I was extremely lonely.
I wasn't a city girl at all, and I didn't like city life. I didn't like anything about it. But in order to to fulfill what I wanted to do I had to put up a move into Dublin and I moved there and I was there while I rehearsed with the band and we got on the road and then I moved to Galway because when I was with the keynotes we used to base ourselves. Sometimes they would plan, you know, dances maybe one and Galway one in Limerick and maybe sometimes in north Kerry or whatever they would base ourselves in Galway. So I got to know people in Galway and I actually boarded with a man and his wife. he was from Donegal and I knew his sisters so I stayed with them and they didn't have a family and they treated me like their child you know.
So I was safe then again, and, but you know the big the big bad war comes in now and again and I was lonely I was away from home and and I was never ever aware of the impact that Margo had I totally went over my head and sometimes when I look back now on the career that I've had I'm kind of glad that it did. I never changed, I still have the same friends that I had back then. I still have those friends today I have never Jerry never ever been at a showbiz party and all of my life and I lived a very very simple life.
I love the music that I sing and I have great friends all around me now so life is good, and and it's been a wonderful journey. indeed absolutely excellent, but I think the fact that you haven't gone to these showbiz parties or got into any of this type of work in many ways is a false situation entirely anyhow but yeah absolutely kept feet on the ground because you know it's there's very little to be gained for the individual i think by these type of uh sort of showbiz parties i mean it happens in the media as well i must say I've always kept away from them also you know yeah yeah yeah yeah it's so big these kind of things are not they're not really you know and I always kept my feet very firmly on the ground.
I met some wonderful people, the fans that I have, Jerry the the salt of the earth, they really and truly are and you know I always stayed around home I always I did tour America and I toured Australia and that sort of thing in Scotland and England but mostly here in Ireland. And today to the places that I did in England were always nearing off the Irish you know, the Irish ballrooms and we would do the big concerts and maybe the likes of the royal Albert hall or whatever with a host of artists on so I was always very very close you know I always kept kept close to the to the roots that I came from and then I suppose in the 90s,I sort of, I went to Nashville for the first time and i made great friends there on the grand ole opry and and if somebody had said to me you know when i was starting out and I was buying my first country records I was buying records of the people that I became friends with you know in Nashville.
I never thought that that would have happened to me, and I never ever thought that I would have you know met the likes of Kitty Wells and Loretta Lynn and Gene Shepard and and Dolly you know. And I recorded an album of dolly back in 96 and I spent six weeks in Nashville what the the part and family and the Owns family from East Tennessee and we recorded a beautiful album and and I made great friends with all these people and I have wonderful, wonderful memories.
But i wouldn't have any of this, if it weren't for the fans. I wouldn't, I would have nothing, and that brings us right to the situation that we're in today with this terrible terrible virus and and it has it has been able to do something that nothing was able to do on me before. And that is it has separated the likes of me and and other artists from the people you know we're not able to get in touch with them and and it's sad and we have we have no arrow pointing to where we're gonna go from here we pray every day that you know we will get back and and that this will pass and I hope you know, I hope it's just a pause button at the minute but there is no light at the end of this. all we have is the likes of you Jerry and thank you for you know taking on and doing the show and and and keeping our music alive you know we all need each other at the end of the day.
I wouldn't be on radio if you hadn't made contact, if you didn't start to do your program you know, so we all need each other and in some way you are connecting the likes of me and Daniel and everybody else that you've interviewed. You're connecting us again with the people out there and that's that's the one thing that we have to be grateful for now that you will connect us with them for just that short while that we're talking to you and and I thank you for that Margaret it's a real a real pleasure it's a, it's a pleasure indeed to to be able to catch up with you i think with this uh with this whole uh lockdown with this uh dreadful situation we find ourselves in one of the biggest things has been technology and communication which has advanced things whereby we're unable to literally meet up together.
But at least we can keep in contact through technology which has uh you know greatly advanced over the years oh absolutely I mean, I did i even did a sort of television program there on on tg 4 or Irish station with Daniel and I never thought almighty never ever thought that I would be sitting in a room you know with earphones and looking into a laptop computer and we'd be able to do a program and and I watched Daniel last night. he's in Tenerife and he did a facebook thing, a concert you know and and it's amazing what we can do I Daniel and i have a cousin um we have a lot of cousins in Scotland my father's people were all sort of they all went from Donegal to Scotland and started their lives there and their families and Daniel and I my family have a cousin there that that was very ill and and uh i was able to call Daniel uh yesterday and say Daniel you know kathleen is not well you know just mention or you know on your on your facebook concert and he did last night and he sang a little song for her and i was so happy because at 7 30 this morning she passed away.
So without technology being what it is that little you know that little moment wouldn't have happened last night so we have to be grateful I'm not grateful technology but we have to be grateful that we can do these things uh and and the technology is there to help us along because sometimes it's out of our power indeed indeed so that is a that's a lovely story in my sympathies on that uh the sub passing yeah yeah she wasn't she wasn't going to get better but I felt great for Daniel you know because Daniel and I were very very close to her you know and it was amazing I said I watched i watched him and i talked to him after it and i must say we both we both cried a little bit about the whole situation and when I called him this morning early and Tenerife and and told him you know that she did she she was aware that he that he he spoke over and he sang a song that she used to always sing when we would all get together at family gatherings storn away and he sang the song so you know thank God for technology and thank God we have that had that moment last night uh to say goodbye to her and and she passed away in her sleep and it was a lovely ending you know.
Indeed Margo you've been you've been involved for quite a while uh since uh 1977 indeed with the search for a distant relative a little girl who went missing uh Mary Boyle. In fact you even recorded the song the missing Marry Boyle, yeah absolutely one several times the the searches for mary sort of um uprooted themselves again and we've had many many searches for mary's body and uh back at one of the times um P.J. Murrahy rang me and he said you know that he was listening to an interview that I did and i was talking about Mary and he wrote that song that I recorded about Mary Boyle and as we speak i mean there was a documentary done a number of years ago about Mary, and all that and and as we speak actually um two guys from the north of ireland have done a documentary another documentary on the disappearance of Mary Boyle and as i speak to you now it's been edited and it's almost ready to go and they're hoping that they will get about on netflix to a wider you know a wider audience uh than than parochially here in Ireland uh just to make people aware of the situation it's a terrible situation.
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