Nenagh native and award-winning songwriter Brendan Graham. PHOTO: THOMAS CONNEALLY

Nenagh native writes for Gipsy Kings

Nenagh native Brendan Graham has written the lyrics for the new single from legendary Catalan flamenco band the Gipsy Kings.

Born in a nursing home on Summerhill in 1945, Brendan has for many years been regarded as Ireland’s greatest living songwriter. He is best known for writing the lyrics to Westlife hit ‘You Raise Me Up’ and composing Ireland’s Eurovision winners ‘Rock ‘n’ Roll Kids’ (1994) and ‘The Voice’ (1996).

Now the proud Nenagh man is collaborating with the Gipsy Kings, whose new single ‘Abandonado’ was released last Friday week to promote their 2023/’24 world tour.

Taken from the Gipsy Kings’ new ‘Renaissance’ album, the new song is described as a guitar-driven melody with the passionate emotion of loss and abandonment captured by band founder Tonino Baliardo’s extraordinary vocal expression of Brendan’s English language lyrics.

Now based in Mayo, Brendan still maintains close contact with his hometown, where his mother Gertie came from Kickham Street. His grandfather James Whelan worked for the Nenagh Guardian as a reporter for over six decades.

Brendan spent much of his boyhood growing up with his aunts, the Whelan sisters, who operated a sweet and grocery shop in Nenagh. The shop was located on the site currently occupied by Axa Insurance in Kickham Street.

“It was an honour to be asked,” Brendan said of being approached to write the lyrics to the new Gipsy Kings song – “as well as a challenge, to write an English lyric for this legendary band and the unique voice of Tonino Baliardo. It’s one of the joys of being a songwriter when the song works, and it gets embraced by artistes of such stature as the Gipsy Kings.”

Brendan attested to becoming a full-time “songwriter by default” when he was in his late 40s. He has had songs recorded and performed by artistes across a wide spectrum of music: Josh Groban with Aretha Franklin, Westlife, The Chieftains with Liam Neeson, Johnny Mathis, Seán and Dolores Keane, among many more.

Three of Brendan’s songs feature on ‘Breath Upon the Flame’, the current album from the Dublin Brass Ensemble, featuring Eimear Quinn, singer of his Eurovision-winning song ‘The Voice’.

In another recent project, Brendan's songs were translated into the Basque language Euskera, and were included in the documentary ‘Elibra’, which sheds light on Basque activist Elbira Zipitria.

Set for release in the coming months is an album called ‘Storybook’, featuring the songs of Brendan Graham. In the new year, he is to host a gala concert performance of his songs at the National Concert Hall with the National Symphony Orchestra.

The Gipsy Kings will perform at Dublin’s Olympia theatre next March as part of their world tour.