May 22: Irish singer Mary Black is 56 years-old today.

Mary Black is well-known as an interpreter of both folk and contemporary material which has made her a major recording artist in her native Ireland, and all over the world.

Today, Black is held in the highest regard in her native Ireland and beyond and is regarded as one of the most important Irish vocalists of her generation.


Did you know?
For a number of years, WHAT HI-FI? magazine considered Mary Black's voice to be so pure, that it was used as an audiophile benchmark for comparing the sound quality of different high fidelity systems.
Mary Black has music in her veins. Her father played the fiddle,  her mother sang and her brothers had their own musical group called The Black Brothers. Her younger sister Frances achieved great success as a singer in the 90s. From this musical background, Mary began singing traditional Irish songs at the age of eight. As she grew older, she began to perform with her siblings (Shay, Michael and Martin Black) in small clubs around Dublin.

Black joined a small folk band in the late 1970s called General Humbert, with whom she toured Europe and released numerous albums. In 1982 she developed a professional relationship with musician/producer Declan Sinnott and recorded her first solo album, Mary Black. The album performed well in the Irish charts and it went gold. In 1983 it was honored by the Irish Independent and it is still referred to as one of the best Irish albums of the 1980s.

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Black ventured into the traditional Irish music band De Dannan and toured with them around Europe and in the US. The album she recorded with them Anthem, won the Irish Album of the Year award.

During her time with De Dannan, Black continued with her solo career with albums such as Collected in 1984 and Without the Fanfare the following year. These recordings took Black into a more contemporary musical direction.  IRMA named her Entertainer of the Year in 1986 and Best Female Artist in 1987 and 1988.

Black had her first multi-platinum Irish album, By the Time it Gets Dark, and her popularity reached new heights with the release of the ground-breaking album, No Frontiers, in August 1989. It rocketed to the top of the Irish album charts and stayed in the Top 30 for over a year, achieving triple-platinum status. At the same time, Mary's popularity grew in the U.S.due to several tours and widespread radio exposure.

In spring 1991, she embarked on an American tour. Her 1991 release, Babes in the Wood, entered the Irish charts at No.1 once again and remained there for six weeks.

Her single "The Thorn Upon the Rose" reached No.8 on the Japanese singles chart. Babes in the Wood performed well in the U.S. and it was voted one of the top 10 albums of the year in the U.K. She was once again named Best Female Artist by  IRMA.

Mary was featured on the cover of Billboard magazine in a story hailing her as "a firm favorite to join the heavy-hitting ranks of such Irish artists as Enya, Sinéad O’Connor and Clannad's Máire Brennan in the international marketplace.”

Her next album The Holy Ground also reached the top of the Irish album chart. The next project saw Mary join forces with six Irish female artists to record the compilation album, A Woman's Heart. Other artists  included her sister Frances Black, Eleanor McEvoy, Dolores Keane, Sharon Shannon and Maura O'Connell. It did so well, it spawned another album, A Woman's Heart 2.

Black recorded two duets with American folk singer Joan Baez in the spring of 1995, for Baez's album Ring Them Bells. A greatest hits album of Mary's work, Looking Back, was released and she went touring mainly in the U.S., Germany and Scandinavia, to support the release.

Black released three more albums in the 1990s, Circus, Shine, and Speaking with the Angel. She was named "Best Female Artist" in 1994 and 1996 for the fourth and fifth time.

Mary released her first live album in 2003, Mary Black Live. She also released her only studio album of the 2000s, Full Tide. Although it was successful, Mary has kept a low musical profile in the last few years.

In 2009 she was featured on one track of Steve Martin's album The Crow: New Songs for the 5-String Banjo.



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