Irish folk singing legend Liam Clancy dies

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Irish folk singer Liam Clancy, who is credited with popularising his country's traditional music in the United States in the 1960s, died Friday aged 74, Ireland's RTE state radio said.

Clancy, who had been ill for some time, died in a hospital in Cork surrounded by his family, RTE said.

He formed the Clancy Brothers with several of his siblings from Carrick-on-Suir, County Tipperary, and they had a string of hits as part of a singing group with Northern Ireland-born Tommy Makem.

The group's big breakthrough was a 16-minute appearance before a televised audience of 80 million people on The Ed Sullivan Show in 1961 when they filled in for a guest who did not show up.

They got a recording deal and in boisterous performances, wearing their trademark Irish-knit traditional white wool Aran sweaters, they re-invigorated traditional songs and sold millions of albums during the 1960s folk revival.

They had started singing around the pub circuit in New York where they met and influenced a young Bob Dylan.

Dylan said Clancy "was just the best ballad singer I ever heard in my life".

In 1973, Clancy left the group to pursue a solo career. He moved to Calgary, Alberta, where his television series won a Canadian Emmy award.

A guest spot by Makem on the show led to a number of reunion albums. They toured and recorded together until the late 1980's.

Clancy made his last public appearance at Dublin's Concert Hall in May.

In 2000, Clancy enjoyed what he called his "virtual wake" on the Internet after a US radio station announced he had died.

Members of his family rang from the United States to find out about the funeral arrangements and were shocked when he answered the phone.

Clancy's website had over 1,200 hits within an hour of his "death" and he was able to read the long list of condolences and tributes.

The singer said that when the mistake was discovered, his nephew sent him an e-mail asking, "How are things in Hell?"