Northern Ireland

Obituary: Bap Kennedy

Bap Kennedy singing on Radio Ulster
Image caption Bap Kennedy said he wanted people to share his love of music

Bap Kennedy was a singer-songwriter who travelled the world but whose heart belonged in his native city of Belfast.

In a career of 40 years, he enjoyed success as a solo artist but also collaborated with Van Morrison, Mark Knopfler and Steve Earle.

Martin Christopher Kennedy was born in June 1962 and grew up during the Troubles in west Belfast.

Music was at the heart of his family, It was the "magic of music" that mattered to him, he said.

His younger brother, Brian, became a famous musician and singer.

Martin's nickname stems from the Belfast bakery company, Kennedy's. They made the popular Belfast 'bap' - a small crusty loaf - and it was natural that people should nickname any Kennedy, "bap".

The young singer played in local bands before forming 10 Past 7, becoming label mates with the Undertones when Terri Hooley signed them to Good Vibrations.

The Belfast band made it onto national television with an appearance on Channel 4 music show The Tube and released a couple of songs before breaking up when Bap moved to London to follow his musical dreams.

He formed Energy Orchard. Record deals and five albums followed as the band toured extensively.

'Nowhere'

Speaking to Ralph McLean on BBC Radio Ulster in 2000, he lamented their lack of commercial success.

"We were tipped for the big time but never really lived up to that promise," he said.

"These things just happen, a record company signs 10 bands, nine of them get nowhere and one band is Nirvana. We were one of the bands that weren't Nirvana."

Image caption Bap Kennedy performing with his wife Brenda

Country singer Steve Earle, offered to produce Bap's first solo album and he got on a plane to Nashville.

It became his second home.

His album, Domestic Blues, was released in 1998.

He recorded a collection of Hank Williams songs called Hillbilly Shakespeare.

In 2001, Moonlight Kisses, a track from his Lonely Street album, was used for the soundtrack of the romantic comedy Serendipity starring John Cusack and Kate Beckinsale.

The Big Picture album was a return to working with Van Morrison, who had supported him since his Energy Orchard days. It was recorded at Morrison's studio and both musicians co-wrote the song, Milky Way.

That album led to work with Mark Knopfler of Dire Straits, as he toured the USA and Europe.

'Critical acclaim'

Bap moved back to Northern Ireland in 2007 where he met his wife, Brenda.

He recorded Howl On, another critically acclaimed album.

He was no stranger to good reviews but said he would have liked to sell more records.

Image caption Bap with the late BBC presenter Gerry Anderson

"I get a lot of critical acclaim and no sales," he said in a BBC interview.

"That seems to be the story of my life so I wouldn't mind making a really crap album and getting loads of money. You can't eat a review, let's face it."

In May 2016, Bap broke the news of his cancer diagnosis in a blog.

"Sometimes people don't know what to say, and you find yourself explaining the same things again and again to family and friends, which can be difficult. But it's no one's fault," he wrote.

"That's just the way it goes. And really that's the most positive side of the whole thing... the genuine concern and desire to help in any way possible."

He was touched at how many people contacted him to say how much his music meant.

"I didn't know how many people have been touched by my songs," he wrote.

"It's breaking my heart to find out now when I have so little time to do anything about it - but I am also very happy to feel the achievement. It's what I always wanted. Not money. Not fame.

"I always wanted people to feel what I feel. The magic of music."

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