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The Rocky Road From Dublin: 50 Years of The Dubliners

Mark Radcliffe traces the history of The Dubliners, on the night the band's surviving members receive a Lifetime Achievement Award at the Radio 2 Folk Awards.

Mark Radcliffe traces the colourful history of The Dubliners, who changed the face of Irish traditional music when they formed in the back room of O'Donoghue's pub on Dublin's Merrion Row in 1962.

Half a century later, they continue to be one of the best-loved and most recognisable of Ireland's folk groups, responsible for definitive versions of Ireland's greatest ballads. The Wild Rover, Whiskey In The Jar, The Rocky Road To Dublin; for a lot of people around the world, The Dubliners are Irish music, and Irish music is The Dubliners.

On the night the band's surviving members receive a Lifetime Achievement Award at the Radio 2 Folk Awards, Mark Radcliffe tells the story of a cultural phenomenon. When Ronnie Drew, Luke Kelly, Barney McKenna and CiarĂ¡n Bourke began playing regular sessions together in O'Donoghue's, they essentially created the Irish pub music scene. With their arresting, bearded appearance, pioneering musicians and charismatic singers, they revived Ireland's interest in the ballad and - as the Clancy Brothers had previously done in America - they popularised the form in the UK and Europe.

However, despite scoring top ten hits and drinking countless venues dry of porter, the band's story isn't just one of chart success and mighty craic. They've suffered premature and tragic losses through ill health.

And yet, despite some cruel twists of fate, the band's future has almost never been in doubt. Members have come and gone, but the respect in which "The Dubs" are held by audiences, particularly at home and in the great Irish diaspora, remains as deep as ever. In 2007, U2's Bono dubbed Ronnie Drew "The King Of Ireland".

With help from The Dubliners and friends including The Pogues, Donovan, Ralph McTell, Paul Brady and Moya Brennan, Mark pieces together the band's remarkable past, looks to their future and considers the qualities that explain their enduring popularity.

57 minutes

Last on

Wed 8 Feb 2012 22:00