Joe Dolan. In our house we couldn’t stand him. My mother is a massive Joe Dolan fan and for us as kids he was the joke, akin to Daniel O’Donnell or Cliff Richard. Adored by mothers but please for the love of God ma don’t put that tape on in the car. As happens with so many artists though, age has been kind to Joe’s career in my eyes but until now I’ve never really given proper thought to why.
Dolan’s career started out in the Irish show band scene, performing with his group The Drifters (no, not those Drifters). Eventually circumstances saw Joe and some of the band head off on their own project and from his smash hit “Make Me An Island” in 1969 up until his untimely death in 2007 Dolan was the Irish answer to Elvis. I don’t say that in an effort to compare the two musically necessary and that isn’t an argument I wish to stir up but in terms of sheer popularity and command of his demographic, nobody could touch Joe.
It wasn’t all plain sailing, there were bad times and career lows along the way. There also was a persistent question regarding his sexuality which I don’t want to dwell on here but suffice to say for many it is believed that Dolan’s vintage and the era he grew up in prevented him to live his life as he truly wished to do. All of these elements informed my interpretation of this song. As I said, when I was a kid Joe Dolan’s was the music I dreaded my mother putting on the radio. It wasn’t really anything to do with the music though now that I think back to it. It was Dolan himself and his following and how tailored his image and performances were to his target market.
He wasn’t singing for everyone, not necessarily. Joe had a perfect stage show that was tailor made for his audience, made up primarily of women generally mid to late twenties and older. Everyone was welcome at a “Joe Show” of course, but this was his primary market. And he nailed it.
Years on I can now look back at his music and find the heart there. His voice too. Dolan sang high, and I mean high, choosing to forego falsetto also which is absolutely terrifying for someone who sings like I do. The man was a serious talent and like the aforementioned Daniel O’Donnell, it is only now as an older person that I can appreciate that. I doubt this will lead to a raft of Joe Dolan covers on my YouTube Channel but it’ll certainly lead to me taking a deeper dive into his music. As always I hope you enjoyed this video and remember to watch/like/share/subscribe!