Ireland and America | Essays

“Heroes/Belfast” by Larry Kirwan

Jan 28, 2019

Heroes/Belfast

 

One Sunday night back in the early 1980’s I ran into David Bowie at Tier 3, a club in Lower Manhattan.  My friend, Phelim Lunny, and I were on our first drink when there was a commotion at the door and Jayne County came bursting through in her inimitable manner.  Her entourage included a sheepish looking David Bowie.

 

Perhaps David was tired of the shenanigans for he inquired if he might join us.  The conversation ranged from New York to Dublin to Belfast, and there was some mention of the hunger strikes.  But mostly we talked about West Berlin, for both Phelim and David had lived there.

 

David was affable and very well informed about Ireland, its history and politics, and was keen to get any insights we might have.  At some point I mentioned that Heroes was one of my favorite songs, a compliment he accepted graciously.  After a couple of drinks he decided to call it an early night and, as he was bidding us goodbye, he said, almost as an afterthought, “You know I could just as easily have written Heroes about Belfast as Berlin.”

 

When I heard of his death those words resurfaced.  Like many I was devastated for he had been a great influence and I thought how lucky I was to have shared his company for an hour or two.  The following words came to mind:

 

You were from the East, I was from the West,

You were wearing orange, I was wearing green.

You adored in your church, I adored in mine

All we had in common was a special dream

That we could live together, never be apart

No walls could separate the union of our hearts

Until the bullets ricocheted along the Shankill Road

You became a memory I would always love, forever…

 

I was recording some songs for IRAQ, a new musical, recently and had a little time left over.  And so we had a run at Heroes/BelfastThomas Hamlin (drums), Coty Cockrell (keyboards/backing vocals), and Rene Hart (double bass) played on that first take and were joined by George Aboud on violin from the Broadway show, The Band’s VisitDeni Bonet on strings and Mike Fazio on atmospheric guitar added to the mix at Mark Dann’s Studios.

 

With love and appreciation for David,

 

Larry Kirwan