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🇮🇪 Irish songwriter Shay Healy (78) passes away

"What's Another Year" writer was a many of many talents, treasured by many

We are sad to report that Shay Healy has passed away at the age of 78. The songwriter is most known in Eurovision circles for being the lyricist of Johnny Logan’s first winning song, What’s Another Year. Healy died from Parkinson’s Disease this weekend.

Shay Healy: A multitalented legend

Healy was a man of many talents. To Eurovision fans, his credits to one of the most loved winners of all time, What’s Another Year by Johnny Logan, is his biggest success. In interviews, Shay Healy often mentioned that it had earnt him a good sum of money, which gave him the opportunity to explore many a talent. Healy wasn’t just known as a songwriter, as he was also involved in musical theatre.

His musical theatre début as a writer was back in 1977, when he and Niall Tobin wrote The King, a musical about Elvis Presley. The show had its premiere just two months after the King of Rock ‘n Roll had died. Healy’s biggest success followed in 2005, when he wrote The Wiremen. The musical tells the story of the County Mayo and how electricity was introduced there in the 1950s.

Healy was also a well-known face in comedy. He has written many songs for comedian Billy Connolly, including The Shitkickers Waltz. He also wrote Silly Fellow under the pseudonym of Crack – a song about how Paul McCartney was arrested in Japan. In more serious work, he won the Castlebar Song Contest as a songwriter in 1983. Linda Martin, who would later go on to win the Eurovision Song Contest 1992, sang Edge of the Universe.

As if musical theatre and songwriting weren’t enough strings to his bow, Healy also had a career as a broadcaster. Between 1988 and 1992, he hosted a satirical late night show on RTÉ Two, called Nighthawks. During an episode in 1992, Healy interviewed former Justice Minister Seán Doherty. The interview, in which Doherty spoke about illegal phone tapping, led to so much political controversy that Taoiseach Charles Haughey felt forced to resign. After his talkshow had ended, Shay Healy published his début novel The Stunt in 1992.

“A national treasure”

In Ireland, many have paid tribute to Shay Healy. Culture Minister Catherine Martin was one of the first to comment, stating she felt Healy was a “national treasure”. President Michael D. Higgins also paid tribute, commenting on Healy’s skills and uniqueness as a songwriter:

Shay’s talents extended across so many areas and continued, even when challenged by illness, into the modern decades. His approach to everything he did was original and conveyed with enthusiasm. The range of his song-writing was such that it included not just songs that could compete with real prospect at Eurovision, but also songs that responded to contemporary events and that could take their place in the folk community.

President Michael D. Higgins of the Republic of Ireland on the death of Shay Healy

Several Eurovision stars have also spoken about their memories of Shay Healy. Linda Martin stated that all of her memories of Healy and his wife are happy ones. She shared a story about their adventure at the Castlebar Song Contest, back in 1983. The songwriter was one of the first to offer Martin a solo record, which led to a fruitful career. On their trip there, she said:

I got into the car with him with make-up on, and I arrived in Castlebar with not a shred of make-up on, because he was so funny on the way up, the tears were rolling down my face. I have wonderful memories of that man.

Linda Martin to the Irish Times

Johnny Logan, the two-time Eurovision winner, also shared his memories of Shay Healy. The singer recalled how the story of his first winning moment at Eurovision, back in 1980, started:

Shay was very easy to like and very easy to love. My thoughts and prayers are with his sons. I am sure they are heartbroken. [Back in 1979,] he told me that he had a song, and wanted me to perform it [if chosen to represent Ireland] at the Eurovision. That is how the story of What’s Another Year began.

Johnny Logan to RTÉ Radio

Shay Healy was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease in 2004. After his diagnosis, he made many public appearances to speak about his illness and struggle. His wife, Dymphna Errity, passed away in 2017. Shay Healy is survived by his two sons, Oisin and Fionain.

The thoughts of the entire Team are with Shay Healy’s friends and family in these challenging times. Below, you can listen to Shay Healy’s Eurovision winner, “What’s Another Year” from 1980.

Nick van Lith

I'm one of the founding members of Eleven years after the start, I'm proud to say that I am now the Editor-in-Chief of this wonderful website. When I'm not doing Eurovision stuff, you should be able to find me teaching German to kids... And cheering on everything and everyone Greek, pretty much. Pame Ellada!

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