JUSTICE FOR KIRSTY: The lovely woman you see in the photo (taken by the talented photographer Charlie Dickins) is the great English singer/songwriter Kirsty MacColl, who was killed in 2000 while on holiday in Cozumel, Mexico. She was only 41. Kirsty was diving in a preserve area when a boat crossed into this no-go zone, struck her and killed her as her two young sons watched. The man who owns the boat, a wealthy businessman named Gonzalez Nova, has used his influence to avoid even being questioned in the matter. Just a short time ago (nearly six years after Kirsty's death), subpoenas were finally served on him and members of his family who might have been on the boat.

For those who have never heard of Kirsty, she was a brilliant singer. Her father wrote the classic The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face, and she definitely took after him when it came to writing a tune. She became known in America for penning the song They Don't Know, which was a hit for Tracey Ullman back in the 80s. She was a big star in the UK, with a lot of hits including the hilarious There's a Guy Who Works Down The Chip Shop Swears He's Elvis and A New England. She also recorded Fairytale of New York with The Pogues, and it has become a holiday classic...possibly the best Christmas song ever written. She finally broke in America with her Electric Landlady album, which had the hit Walking Down Madison. However, it was her next album, the majestic Titanic Days, about the unravelling of her marriage to producer Steve Lillywhite that is considered her masterpiece. That's when I got to interview and meet Kirsty.

I was working for a daily newspaper at the time (this was fall 1993) and we did several interviews by phone, all while Kirsty was in London rehearsing for her tour of America. Atlanta was the opening night of this tour and she was nervous (she'd always suffered from stage fright). The American label was giving her grief about the tour and not being supportive, but she carried on anyway. She was funny and bubbly and quick with a laugh during our phone interviews. We agreed to meet up in Atlanta before the show.

I arrived at Variety Playhouse early for the soundcheck and brought a bag of goodies for her to take on the tour bus. She had me come in and I got to sit through the soundcheck (totally rocking) and we chatted for a bit about Atlanta and the trip over. She was clearly nervous, but also excited to finally be getting her music before a live audience in America. The song Can't Stop Killing You had gotten some airplay and VH-1 was playing the video...she was becoming known in America. She truly was a sweetheart. Self-effacing and ready with a sharp, but funny retort. She put me on the front row, I wished her luck and she gave one of the best concerts I've ever seen. As the show progressed, she loosened up and the crowd cheered her on. By the time she got to the cover of I Wanna Be Sedated, she was totally in her element. She looked happy and radiant and the woman knew how play a Gibson.

We talked one other time after that, after she returned to the UK. She thanked me for the interview and supporting her in Atlanta. I never spoke to her again after that, although she remained one of my favorite artists. She did a long tour in support of Titanic Days, doing tons of gigs both in the US and Europe. A greatest hits, Galore, came out and then she took a few years off. She got deeply into Cuban and South American music, and this admiration was showcased on Tropical Brainstorm, released the year of her death.

Since 2000, Kirsty's mother Jean and her sons have fought to bring those responsible for Kirsty's death to justice. The website Justice For Kirsty raises funds for the legal battle. You can purchase Charlie Dickins beautiful photos there and this week, The Pogues are re-releasing Fairytale of New York in the UK with the money going to the Justice campaign. Donations are also welcome at the site, and there are templates to help write letters to the Mexican government demanding that her case not be forgotten.

Make a donation, buy the Fairytale of New York cd, buy any of Kirsty's cds and you will see just how brilliant she was and how her music remains vital and timeless.


Anonymous said…
Great post! She was class all the way.

lucas said…
Titanic Days changed my life. Thanks for this great reminder of KM's awesome-ness. ;-)

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