Remembering Rory Gallagher: the Irish guitar icon who let the music do the talking

Remembering Rory Gallagher: the Irish guitar icon who let the music do the talking

WHEN RORY Gallagher passed away, aged 47, on June 14, 1995, we not only lost Ireland’s greatest guitarist but arguably one of the finest players the world had ever seen. 

An Irish folk hero, when it came to his craft, Gallagher refused to compromise and was all the better for it. 

Born William Rory Gallagher on March 2, 1948 in Ballyshannon, County Donegal, the early part of his career saw him dabble with local showbands before making his mark as a guitarist and vocalist with the legendary blues-rock power trio Taste. 

The late 1960s was a glorious time to be Gallagher.  

While fans fawned over Cream, purists purred over Taste’s first two albums, their eponymous debut and the deliriously brilliant follow-up On The Boards. 

The latter was a showcase of Gallagher and his cohorts at their very best, an eclectic blend of blues rock, R&B and jazz inflections with the precision ensemble playing making the LP a delight from start to finish. 

Central to the magic was Gallagher’s brilliant, blistering guitar playing and pure, unaffected vocals.  

It was a heady time for all involved, with Taste sharing stages with Cream and Blind Faith before a legendary appearance at the Isle of Wight Festival alongside The Who and Jimi Hendrix. 

Superstardom beckoned but, not for the first time, Gallagher struck out on his own, eager to create music that mattered to him. 

Dissolving the band in 1970 to record and tour under his own name, while others questioned the decision to ditch Taste, Gallagher got on with doing what he did best. 

The next decade was his most prolific with ten albums released in those 10 years alone, including iconic live releases like Irish Tour ‘74 and Live in Europe. 

Both served as perfect showcases of Gallagher at his best. 

Ask Gallagher fans about their favourite memory of the man and chances are it came at one of his legendary live shows. 

He may not have had the style on stage of other acts of the era but the substance of his work ensured every show left crowds gasping for more. 

Wearing the same old shirt and denim jeans alongside a batter 1961 Stratocaster guitar, appearances mattered little to Rory on stage - and it was the same for audiences once the music started. 

Cited by the likes of Brian May, Slash and Johnny Marr as one of the greatest guitar players that ever lived, it’s a testament to Gallagher’s ability that he was approached by The Rolling Stones to replace Mick Taylor in 1975. 

Rory turned them down of course, eager to continue his exploration of the blues and rock on his own terms. He did exactly that, earning a few fans along the way too, for good measure. 

Over the course of the next 25 years, while Gallagher never quite earned the mainstream acclaim of those who sat in awe of his work, he still managed to sell over 30 million albums. 

Taken before his time following an unsuccessful liver transplant, Gallagher enjoys a legacy like few others. A guitar legend who, to borrow Frank Sinatra parlance, did it his way. 

A virtuoso guitarist and uniquely expressive singer who blended Irish sensibilities with a boldly bluesy, rock streak to create something very special, while Gallagher’s legacy is commemorated through statues and sculptures in Ballyshannon and Dublin, respectively, once again it’s his music that does the talking.