Art and Culture

Musical Notes: John McCormack

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I make no excuse for focusing on the European artistes of yesterday. They endure through the centuries. Perhaps younger generations will discover that true quality doesn’t need to be built on marketing and real talent doesn’t have a ‘sell by’ date on it.

The Irish tenor became a confidant of James Joyce, one of the 20th Century’s most influential writers. He in turn was related to William Joyce. Gifted in his own right, Irish American William Joyce was hanged by the British for defending the Workers Reich.

John McCormack, the fourth of eleven children, was born of humble Irish beginnings. He wasn’t destined to be humble for long. McCormack was to become one of the greatest and richest musicians of the 20th Century. The classical vocalist’s accomplishments were broadly based and they united the social classes. McCormack was first and foremost considered an Italian-style singer. He recorded French operatic arias in the Italian language. Ask your average singer how many notes he can sing in one breath: McCormack could hit 64 notes before drawing the next breath.

Up until his death in 1945 this tenor was one of the world’s top recording stars. He broadcast regularly by radio and featured in a number of movies. McCormack was not just a darling of opera toffs; most people from far more humble background remember him for the most famous of all the Great War’s songs; It’s a Long Way to Tipperary. McCormack was the first to record this ballad so evocative of the Great War. You may recall Vera Lynn’s Keep the Home Fires Burning, another of the tenor’s great singing successes.

McCormack’s time on earth was an age that was evoked by his refrains, The Wearing of the GreenThe Minstrel Boy, and The Last Rose of Summer. Back then there seemed to be less of a barrier between opera and the ballads so beloved by our cloth-capped forebears. This is a hurdle being broken down today by Andre Bocelli and Welsh diva Katherine Jenkins. Long before the Beatles this singer, unknown to hundreds of millions of those born after 1945, was one of the world’s most acclaimed and richest performers.

McCormack was truly an international star. The famous tenor owned race horses and he bought Runyon Canyon near Hollywood. This purchase was made from the money he earned filming Song o’ My Heart. He named the mansion situated close by San Patrizio after the patron saint of Ireland. The palatial home became a much used watering hole by the Hollywood greats of the period.

John McCormack shrugged off his mortal coil at his home near Dublin at the age of just sixty-one. No one can follow his bright starlit curve through the first half of the 20th Century without being impressed by the career of a child born of Co. Athlone Irish millworkers. ~ Michael Walsh

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MICHAEL WALSH is a journalist, broadcaster and the author of RISE OF THE SUN WHEELEUROPE ARISE TROTSKY’S WHITE NEGROESMEGACAUST,  DEATH OF A CITYWITNESS TO HISTORY, THE BUSINESS BOOSTERTHE FIFTH COLUMN VOLUME I and IIFOR THOSE WHO CANNOT SPEAKIMMORTAL BELOVEDTHE ALL LIES INVASIONINSPIRE A NATION Volume IINSPIRE A NATION Volume II , SLAUGHTER OF A DYNASTY , REICH AND WRONG,  THE RED BRIGANDSRANSACKING THE REICH ,    SCULPTURES OF THE THIRD RIECH: ARNO BREKER AND REICH SCULPTORS  SCULPTURES OF THE THIRD RIECH:  JOSEF THORAK AND REICH SCULPTORS ,   The Exiled Duke Romanov Who Turned Desert Into Paradise , THE DOVETAILS , SEX FEST AT TIFFANY’S  and other book titles. These illustrated best-selling books are essential for the libraries of informed readers.

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MICHAEL WALSH is a journalist, author, and broadcaster. His 64 books include best-selling RHODESIA’S DEATH EUROPE’S FUNERAL, AFRICA’S KILLING FIELDS,  THE LAST GLADIATORS, A Leopard in Liverpool, RISE OF THE SUN WHEELEUROPE ARISE, FOR THOSE WHO CANNOT SPEAK, THE ALL LIES INVASIONINSPIRE A NATION Volume IINSPIRE A NATION Volume II, and many other book titles. These illustrated best-selling books are essential for the libraries of informed readers.

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