Documentary gets to the heart of Larry Kirwan's Black 47

By Maria Pepper

Fanatic Heart, a documentary about Black 47.
Fanatic Heart, a documentary about Black 47.
Larry Kirwan in action with Black 47.
Larry Kirwan in action as the frontman of Black 47.

A documentary about the New York band Black 47 founded by the Wexford-born musician Larry Kirwan is due to be screened at Dublin's James Connolly Festival in Dublin today (Tuesday), May 9 at 8 pm.

'Fanatic Heart: The Story So Far of Black 47' tells the story of the legendary Irish/American rock band which spearheaded the genre almost three decades ago. In the early days of playing to unreceptive patrons in Irish bars in the Bronx, Black 47's could never have been predicted.

'99% of the people hated us,' said co-founder Chris Byrne. Undaunted, the band took up residency in the New York city pub Paddy Reilly's where their fans came to include Bob Dylan, Joe Strummer, Neil Young, a movie star or two and even the occasional supermodel. Their first hit, Funky Céili was a favourite in the early days of MTV.

'Fanatic Heart', filmed over the course of 16 years, delves deep into the story of a band whose name was inspired by the worst year of the Irish potato famine in 1847. Their catchy melodies are infused with a powerful message against oppression. 'We were a voice for the voiceless,' said Larry.

Band members Geoffrey Blythe (saxophone), Fred Parcells (trombone), Joe Mulvanerty (uilleann pipes), Thomas Hamlin (drums), Joseph Burcaw (bass) and Larry rocked BB King's New York City to its rafters in November 2014 in their final riotous performance.

Filmmakers Stephanie Silver and Vic Zimet of Home Team Productions are no strangers to the rock world, having previously produced films featuring Cyundi Lauper as well as the late Irish blues guitar great Rory Gallagher.

The screening will take place in the New Theatre, East Essex Street, Dublin 2. The documentary will be introduced by playwright and novelist John Kearns of the Irish American Writers and Artists Association.

Wexford People

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