Colin Irwin, a music journalist, and author, passed away on November 3. Everyone believes they are having a heart attack, but they are unsure. Outstanding writer Colin Irwin is best known for his assessments of folk and world music in publications like f Roots, The Guardian, Mojo, The Daily Telegraph, The Independent, The Sunday Times, and many more.
Having started as a sports writer for the now-defunct Slough Evening Mail, where Greg Dyke was one of his coworkers, Colin Irwin joined Melody Maker in the middle of the 1970s. Over his more than 12 years there, he wrote the folk sections while also advancing to the positions of Features Editor and Assistant Editor. Dolly Parton, Paul McCartney, Mick Jagger, Kris Kristofferson, Tammy Wynette, Suicide, Joan Baez Human League, the Fall, Sandy Denny, Kate Bush, George Michael, and, um, Bay City Rollers are just a few of the noteworthy subjects he spoke with during that time. In the hazy, wild era of Kylie, Jason, Wet Wet Wet, and A-ha, he left to take the editorship of the weekly pop magazine Number One after surviving punk music and the New Romantics.
He later reappeared to play cameo roles in a slew of most-forgotten periodicals, including Rock World and The Radio One Story, before vanishing into the depths of the BBC to work on something obscene in “Special Projects.” Additionally, he fronted two seasons of the BBC’s television coverage of the Cambridge Folk Festival, hosted five episodes of Acoustic Roots for BBC Radio 2, served as music editor at Teletext, and served as a judge for the Mercury Music Prize (his crowning glory beating a desk as he argued for Antony & the Johnsons to win).
He was a natural storyteller
He was a great storyteller and created many plays. His plays include The Corridor, One of Us Is Lying, When Barry Met Cally, and I Am The Way. I just had the opportunity to watch his stage rendition of Margaret Barry’s legend, She Moved Through The Fair, and I was completely blown away. He’d done a lot of research into Margaret’s life, including speaking with her relatives and friends, in addition to recounting the tale of this amazing self-described “queen of the gipsies” in his book.
Colin Randall on folk, folk-rock, and roots music
Long before we met, I was familiar with his work from his tenure as the Melody Maker’s folk person. I admired and respected him. I had been devouring his literature for years, so when I eventually met him, it felt like we had known each other forever. We occasionally ran into each other at festivals, the BBC Folk Awards, and on the elusive and perhaps extinct junket for folk journalists. He recalled tales of folkie hell-raising from the beginning of the revival, long, intoxicated nights at the Columbia Hotel in Bays water, a favorite hangout for traveling artists. We swapped anecdotes about the folks we wrote for and about in our articles.
The tale has been repeated enough times, and it is further explained here. In a nutshell, that newspaper had sent me to Macedonia so I could write about the conflict in nearby Kosovo. The Telegraph obits department called shortly after I landed in Skopje to ask whether I could provide an obit for Swarb as he was close to passing away. I recommended Colin Irwin because reporting obligations came first, and he duly filed an excellent essay (which Swarb told me he had very much enjoyed once he had overcome the shock of being sent to an early grave).
Newspapers frequently create these articles in advance of the subject’s departure. Premature appearances of them, or as one senior colleague described it, “breaking God’s embargo,” are more infrequent. However, someone in the office assumed in error over the next weekend that Swarb had passed away, and the obituary was published. We were both unaware of our participation in the affair, even though we were both innocent in it.
I feel bereft in the wake of Colin’s unexpected passing and am at a loss for words. Relax, buddy.
This how Colin Irwin’s son reported his dad’s death on Facebook
This is Kevin, Colin’s son. Dad passed away suddenly last night. We think it was a heart attack, but not sure yet. He was a wonderful, loving, crazy, creative, brilliant man. A truly great, great, great husband, father and grandfather. He had an incredible life. The stories are endless. He was the best.
A shock. I’ve known Colin for most of my musical life. A fine journalist, on Melody Maker, f Roots, and much more, and writer of books, with his heart deep in folk music, a lovely, modest, and kind person (and, showing his care for humanity, a lay funeral celebrant – he was the celebrant at Bill Caddick’s funeral).
Very sad news about the leading UK folk journalist of the later 20th century, and an utterly lovely bloke.
What a shock and a tragic loss. He was always very kind to us Ryburn crowd with reviews and support and indeed kind to the Old Swan Band. His knowledge of the folk scene was spectacular.
On a personal level, I have been in a daily battle with him in an online quiz and his general knowledge was difficult to parry. He will be greatly missed.
Colin was a key figure throughout all my 20+ years as a PR, as I know he was for many. Supportive, fun to hang out with, with a stream of hilarious stories, he knew how to ask the right questions and how to listen. The huge range of his musical knowledge was something to behold. When I shared a couple of industry panels with Colin over the years – and was completely hopeless . He was immensely kind. Shocked and saddened to hear this news and send Colin’s family love and condolences.
Billy Bragg tweeted
Sorry to hear of the passing of Colin Irwin, who wrote my first cover feature for Melody Maker back in 1985, traveling around the UK with me on the Jobs and Industry tour.
Fatea _ Magazine tweeted
Sad to hear the news of the passing of Colin Irwin, not only a great journalist, and passionate about music but an fantastic person to share time with . His Mojo interviews at Cambridge were always something special. The music industry is a poorer place today.
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