June 27, 2022

S4E3: Larry Kirwan – Rocking Renaissance Man from Black 47 to Broadway

S4E3: Larry Kirwan – Rocking Renaissance Man from Black 47 to Broadway

We’re not sure what’s more impressive—that Larry Kirwan originated and co-wrote the Broadway hit Paradise Square, or that his early band with Pierce Turner was banned from the notorious New York punk rock club CBGB for being “too demonic.”

Larry talks of how his unusual childhood in Wexford and his need to maneuver through different points of view--Republican vs Free State, Catholicism vs Atheism, Irish vs British—laid the foundation of an artistic vision that could see the world through the prism of others.

Chapter Listing

Chapter Clickable Link Link Address Time Stamp
1 Intro https://overcast.fm/+lMhPivr1Q/00:01 00:01
2 Sound: Artist and Audience https://overcast.fm/+lMhPivr1Q/03:27 03:27
3 Wexford and NYC Origin Stories https://overcast.fm/+lMhPivr1Q/06:59 06:59
4 An East Village Bayonet Moment https://overcast.fm/+lMhPivr1Q/12:41 12:41
5 The Kiwi and Blood Wedding https://overcast.fm/+lMhPivr1Q/14:32 14:32
6 From Showband to Black 47 https://overcast.fm/+lMhPivr1Q/18:02 18:02
7 Poet of the Streets https://overcast.fm/+lMhPivr1Q/25:25 25:25
8 Straddling Music and Literature https://overcast.fm/+lMhPivr1Q/27:34 27:34
9 Black 47's Sound https://overcast.fm/+lMhPivr1Q/35:06 35:06
10 The Kirwan Workstyle https://overcast.fm/+lMhPivr1Q/38:43 38:43
11 Bringing Paradise Square to Broadway https://overcast.fm/+lMhPivr1Q/43:14 43:14
12 Irish Gaelic on Broadway https://overcast.fm/+lMhPivr1Q/59:31 59:31
13 Talking Back to Paradise Square Critics https://overcast.fm/+lMhPivr1Q/1:00:35 1:00:35
14 Rockaway Blues https://overcast.fm/+lMhPivr1Q/1:03:53 1:03:53
15 Larry's Seamus Plug with Music https://overcast.fm/+lMhPivr1Q/1:05:30 1:05:30
16 John and Martin's Recap https://overcast.fm/+lMhPivr1Q/1:11:40 1:11:40
17 Credits https://overcast.fm/+lMhPivr1Q/1:13:35 1:13:35

A quest for adventure brings Larry to the U.S. where he dives into the underbelly of New York, Manhattan’s Lower East Side, a hard-edged, multi-cultural neighborhood where somehow he thrived. And though he didn’t know it at the time, Larry had already started doing his field research for the play that became Paradise Square.

But before Broadway, there was Black 47, the band he formed with Chris Byrne in 1989 that would tour the country, guest star on top TV shows, and record music for 25 years. Larry shares the origin of the band’s name, his approach to songwriting, how the music came together on stage, and tales from the rock and roll road.

But while he was writing music, he was writing columns, essays, memoirs, novels, and plays. One of those plays was Hard Times, set in New York’s ultimate interracial melting pot, the downtown neighborhood Five Points in the run-up to the disastrous Civil War Draft Riots. A Broadway producer who saw it at the intimate Cell Theater brought it to Broadway where it is now running on a grand scale as Paradise Square.

We wrap up with a look into his latest novel, Rockaway Blue, set in the aftermath of 9/11 in a world of Irish American cops and firefighters on the fringes of NYC.

This fall Larry will receive the Eugene O’Neill Lifetime Achievement Award from the Irish American Writers & Artists. It’s always a hell of a party, so we hope to see you there!

Larry KirwanProfile Photo

Larry Kirwan

Larry Kirwan was born in Wexford, Ireland and lives in New York City. He was leader of Black 47 for 25 years during which the political rock band played 2,500 gigs, released 16 albums and appeared on Leno, Letterman, O’Brien, Fallon and every major US TV show. He has written three novels including Liverpool Fantasy and Rockin' The Bronx, a memoir, Green Suede Shoes, and A History of Irish Music. His latest novel Rockaway Blue was recently published by Cornell U. Press.
He has written or collaborated on 19 plays and musicals including Paradise Square which began at the cell in Manhattan as Hard Times (produced by Nancy Manocherian, directed by Kira Simring). He collaborated with Thomas Keneally (Schindler’s List) on the musical Transport for which he wrote music and lyrics. It was produced at The Irish Repertory Theatre (directed by Tony Walton). His political thriller Rebel in the Soul was also produced at “The Rep.” He is currently adapting The Informer for stage. A political activist, he is an Irish Echo columnist and celebrity host of Celtic Crush on SiriusXM Satellite Radio. He was president of Irish American Writers & Artists for five years.