Feargal Sharkey – A Good Heart
If you ask me which artist of the 80s had the most sensational name of all, I would say that the doubts are few. Surely the final choice, the short list let’s say, is made up of Gaelic, Welsh and Scottish artists, whose names were truly something superlative. Starting from Bonnie Tyler, the artist of Total Eclipse of the Heart, Welsh lady whose name is Gaynor Hopkins, we soon land onto the Gaelic names of Siobhán Fahey of Bananarama, for many years married to Eurithmics’ Dave Stewart, and of course we also have the great Enya of Orinoco Flow, whose real Irish name is Eithne Pádraigín Ní Bhraonáin. But there was a guy who didn’t even need a stage name, because he had the perfect name. We are talking about Seán Feargal Sharkey, known by all without the first name.
Feargal Sharkey was born in Northern Ireland, precisely in that city that Catholic nationalists call Derry and Unionist Protestants call Londonderry, the city of the massacre described by U2 in Sunday Blood Sunday. In the early 80s Feargal was the lead singer of a pop group formed in Derry, the Undertones. In 1983, however, Feargal leaves the group and embarks on a solo career. Feargal’s first two songs weren’t hugely successful, but in 1985 he was ready for the release of his first solo album, obviously eponymous.
There is a curious story behind the first two songs on the album, which are perhaps the two most famous songs of Feargal’s career.
A Good Heart is the first song. It was a resounding success and for the first time brought the good Feargal to the top of the English charts. The song was written two years earlier by Maria McKee, an American girl who founded Lone Justice, a country music group in the United States. Known mostly on the American country and rockabilly scene, Lone Justice had the opportunity to be supporters on tour for a more famous group, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, the authors of Don’t Come Around Here No More, with the video inspired by Alice in Wonderland. Lone Justice and Tom Petty had the same producer, who was a well-known name: Dave Stewart of the Eurythmics (yes, the very one who will soon marry the Siobhán of Bananarama!).
Well, during the tour Maria fell in love with Heartbreakers keyboardist Benmont Tench (Benmont is the diminutive of his full name which is Benjamin Montmorency Tench III – another fantastic name!). Maria had written this song inspired by their relationship. When the relationship ended, the song remained, and ended up in Feargal Sharkey’s hands, also produced by Dave Stewart!
But the story doesn’t stop there, because Feargal’s second hit, which is also the album’s second song, You Little Thief, was Benmont Tench’s written answer to Maria McKee! Sure, because good Feargal was in close friendship with both of them, and he didn’t want to hurt either of them! And as long as the songs were so good, he also had his convenience!
Feargal Sharkey today is an activist who has been fighting against environmental pollution for years, and has given rise to a singular form of protest: he walked the entire course of the tributaries of the Thames (first those to the north, now he is completing the southern rivers) documenting the most serious cases of pollution through social networks. Definitely an original and great character of the 80s, and not only of the 80s!