Mary Black Keeps The Balance Right

By Harry de Jong (translation by Nele Geurden)
From Various Dutch Newspapers

The Irish folk singer Mary Black is giving her fans a special treat this autumn by presenting them a dvd as well as a live album. That dvd contains a.o. a documentary giving the viewers some insight into her private life. A simple life, so it seems…
Mary doesn’t like glitter and glamour and prefers to spend her spare time hiking in the wet Irish countryside. Keeping in touch with her close-knit family is also very important to her. She often visits her 87-year-old mother and loves to sing in pubs together with her sister Frances and her brothers.

In short Mary is just like any other person. A trait she inherited from her mother she guesses. In the documentary she joins her mother in singing a traditional Irish song. A moment to cherish, Mary now thinks looking back, her health has deteriorated ever since and it is unlikely we shall ever sing together again.
Mary has two sons and a daughter, who share a gift for music themselves. But they haven’t reached the point where they want to start a career in music. They play in bands, just for fun. They are fond of a very different style of music than I am. They don’t consider my kind of music cool. Well, it isn’t exactly rock and roll, you know.

No folk either, come to think of it, because Mary Black covers a wide field. Her choice of music ranges from Bob Dylan to Mancini. I don’t write music myself and thus have to rely on the work of others. I put a lot of time and effort in choosing the right material. Everything I record is 100% my own choice. I know my restrictions and I know that I am not able to write a good song. But I do write down my thoughts in some kind of diary. Thoughts that I keep to myself and will never allow others to read. It never occurred to me to write songs myself. Intuitively I have always known I didn’t have that gift. And as a singer I am very critical. I would never approve of my own creations. Ah, I just think I have been spoiled by other people’s good songs all throughout my career. I don’t feel the need to see my own name under a song. That seems to be no secret, because I receive thousands (honestly!) of songs from all over the world.

Her parents had a considerable influence on her musical development, Mary Black thinks. Neither of them was ever a professional musician, but they were both always really involved in the music scene. My father played the fiddle and the mandolin and my mother could play the bagpipes well. As soon as they found out I loved singing, they really encouraged me to go ahead with it. As a teenager I went to a lot of pubs to sing traditional songs. But in fact I wanted to do more than that. In those days I listened a lot to American legends such as Billie Holiday and Aretha Franklin. Later on I also discovered Bonnie Raitt. So I developed a varied taste in music, moreover I was a curious person. As a singer I wanted to have the freedom to sing exactly what I wanted to sing.

When I sang in all those pubs, I never earned any money with it. It was only when I was 20 and recorded my first album that my life started to get on track and my career as a singer set off. I started really small and can only be proud of what I have achieved. At the same time I have always been the master of my own plans, so to speak. I have always kept the right balance. Life is too short for work only.