He’s probably best known for the Christmas classic Fairytale of New York and his drink and drug-fueled lifestyle.

Today, Irish rockstar Shane MacGowan is struggling on and off with health issues – and the latest pictures of him have left people rather worried.

These days, Shane reportedly even uses a wheelchair and has to be hoisted out of bed by his carer.

As the songwriter and lead singer of The Pogues, Shane MacGowan has been in the spotlight for years. Most newspapers and tabloids have probably had obituaries prepared for decades, but Shane has managed to stay alive – despite being a drinker since age 12.

The English-born Irish artist first saw the light of day on 25 December 1957 and obviously inherited an eccentric taste from his mother.

Shane’s mom had previously been a singer and traditional Irish dancer – so it came quite naturally for him to pursue a career on stage and perform in front of people.

According to Shane’s father, his son ”had a brilliant mind” – he graduated with a literature scholarship and attended the prestigious Westminster School. He was a bright kid and excelled at English – but was expelled from Westminister in his second year.

Instead, his love of music forced him to go to punk concerts. As a teenager, he joined his first punk band. When Shane turned 25, he formed The Pogues – the band would propel him to stardom by combining traditional Irish music with the spirit of punk rock.

The Pogues managed to achieve mainstream success, and they really stood out with their whistles, banjos, citterns, mandolins, and accordions. In Ireland, they sort of redefined rock music – but it was Shane’s raspy, hoarse voice that made the band truly unique.

With his rotting teeth and Jumbo ears, he became a huge star and a figure people instantly recognized.

Sadly, his drinking habits tore the band apart. During a tour in 1992, The Pogues decided to fire Shane for his ”unprofessional behavior.”

”It was painful for everybody at the time. We were all in a spiral of too much touring and drinking,” The Pogues guitarist Phil Chevon said in 2011. 

”And Shane was suffering the most, so when he left it was like putting somebody out of his misery.” 

Truth about Fairytale of New York

Now, if anyone reading this believes they’ve never listened to a song by The Pogues, you’re probably wrong. I mean, surely everyone has heard the classic Christmas tune Fairytale of New York, right?

The iconic song was written in 1985 by Jem Finer and Shane MacGowan, and recorded by The Pogues two years later. For me, Fairytale of New York is one of those special songs that can only come about when the stars align.

And those two stars happened to be Shane and Kirsty MacColl.

The song, centered around lost youth and ruined dreams instead of sleigh rides and mistletoe, was originally written as a duet. But during the first recording of the song, Shane sang both the male and female verses.

The song could have also been released that way – if it wasn’t for producer Steve Lillywhite. He was involved in the recording and suggested that his wife, Kirsty MacColl, could take on the female role in the song. Kirsty made some changes and initially sang the verses at home. Lillywhite then brought the recording to Shane – who was very impressed with what he heard.

”Kirsty knew exactly the right measure of viciousness and femininity and romance to put into it and she had a very strong character and it came across in a big way… In operas, if you have a double aria, it’s what the woman does that really matters. The man lies, the woman tells the truth,” Shane explained.

Today, Fairytale of New York is one of the most successful songs ever. In the UK, the caustic duet is the most-played Christmas song of the 21st century, and it’s also the second most lucrative Christmas song of all time.

According to Irish Central, Shane MacGowan makes around $500,000 in royalties each festive season.

Shane MacGowan today

After leaving The Pogues in the early 1990s, Shane formed Shane MacGowan and the Popes. He also did some solo albums, but the self-proclaimed ”dance band man” suffered on a personal level. The tabloids focused on his declining health and trouble with alcohol and drugs – no one talked about Shane’s music.

And to be fair, the former pop phenomenon was a wreck who had lost all his teeth. Shane’s heavy drinking has sadly overshadowed the fact that he is educated, highly intelligent, and one extremely talented individual.

In recent years, the Irish rocker has struggled to record or perform. It all started back in 2015 when he was leaving his Dublin studio.

”It was a fall and I fell the wrong way. I broke my pelvis, which is the worst thing you can do. I’m lame in one leg, I can’t walk around the room without a crutch. I am getting better, but it’s taking a very long time. It’s the longest I’ve ever taken to recover from an injury. And I’ve had a lot of injuries,” he told Vice.

Shane has been using a wheelchair ever since, and his bad luck has continued to haunt him. The 65-year-old artist suffered from pneumonia in 2016 and broke a knee in 2021. And even though the singer has survived decades of drinking and several fractures, he suffers from depression and ‘nameless fear.’

“I can’t walk any more,” he told The Guardian in 2022.

What’s good is that Shane got help fixing his teeth. They were in terrible condition, and finally, in 2009, he lost the last one. But six years later, he had a brand new set of teeth. The procedure took nine hours – now the singer has 28 new teeth, including one “sexy gold tooth.”

Befriending Johnny Depp

Shane’s love for music will probably never go away – but the wheelchair-bound artist has now turned his attention to art. According to the singer, art has been a lifelong passion for him – his biggest inspiration is the Spanish surrealist Salvador Dali.

”I was always drawing and painting, in Ireland particularly but also in England, from as early as I can remember, probably two or three years,” said in an interview with Spin.

In June 2022, Shane released his first collection, The Eternal Buzz and the Crock of Gold. The art book includes handwritten lyrics, paintings, and sketches picturing The Pogues’ star childhood. The forewords are written by his long-time friend Johnny Depp and art critic Waldemar Januszczak.

”I first met Johnny Depp in London in the ‘80s, he came over to the studio where I was recording.  We started to hang out, he plays great guitar, and he played on my album The Snake, he also directed and starred in one of my videos “That Woman’s Got Me Drinking,” Shane explained.

Started drinking age 5

Shane, who started drinking at age 5 (he used to have two bottles of Guinness before bed), still enjoys a glass or two.

Naturally, health problems have obviously taken a toll on the iconic artist, and it’s remarkable that the 65-year-old has lived this long given his hard-core alcohol addiction.

The passionate Catholic is grateful to wake up each day and tries to do ordinary things together with his wife of 37 years, Victoria Mary Clarke.

Victoria, a journalist and writer, met Shane when she was sixteen. She has helped her husband a lot over the years, and wrote the biography A Drink with Shane MacGowan, an Irish bestseller.

After a 32-year relationship and an 11-year engagement, the couple tied the knot in 2018 in Copenhagen, Denmark. Johnny Depp was one of the few guests; he played guitar for the couple during the low-key ceremony.

”Shane and I are both introverts and we decided that the only solution was to just elope together to someplace that we know nobody and nobody knows us, and keep it a secret,” Victoria told Irish Independent.

As for now, Shane and his 56-year-old partner live in Dublin.

”Sometimes people visit, or we go out to dinner, or sometimes I end up in hospital. If I don’t end up in hospital, I thank Jesus and His Holy Mother and all the saints and angels,” Shane says.

We’ve all got our questionable habits or issues, but Shane is a magnificent artist and I hope that he can keep the spirit up for many years to come!

Thanks for all the fantastic music over the years, hopefully we will hear you sing or perform in the future as well!