Mary Black
Mary Black is an Irish
Republic of Ireland
Ireland , described as the Republic of Ireland , is a sovereign state in Europe occupying approximately five-sixths of the island of the same name. Its capital is Dublin. Ireland, which had a population of 4.58 million in 2011, is a constitutional republic governed as a parliamentary democracy,...

 singer. She 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 in many other parts of the world.


Mary Black was born into a musical family. Her father was a fiddler
A fiddler is a person who plays a fiddle or violin.Fiddler may also refer to:*Fabrangen Fiddlers, an American musical group founded in 1971*Tupolev Tu-28 "Fiddler", a fighter aircraft*Fiddler , a DC Comics villain...

, her mother a singer, and her brothers had their own musical group called The Black Brothers
The Black Family (band)
The Black Family are a Celtic music ensemble, composed of Mary and Frances Black and their siblings, Shay, Michael, and Martin. The family has been called "one of the most important musical clans in Ireland"....

 and her younger sister Frances
Frances Black
Frances Black is an award-winning Irish singer. A pure vocal tone and an energetic stage presence has made Black one of Ireland’s most popular singers...

 would go on to achieve great success as a singer in the 90s. From this musical background, Mary began singing traditional Irish songs
Music of Ireland
Irish Music is the generic term for music that has been created in various genres on the island of Ireland.The indigenous music of the island is termed Irish traditional music. It has remained vibrant through the 20th, and into the 21st century, despite globalizing cultural forces...

 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
Folk music
Folk music is an English term encompassing both traditional folk music and contemporary folk music. The term originated in the 19th century. Traditional folk music has been defined in several ways: as music transmitted by mouth, as music of the lower classes, and as music with unknown composers....

 band in 1975 called General Humbert, with whom she toured Europe and released two albums, in 1975 and 1978. In 1982 she developed a professional relationship with musician/producer
Record producer
A record producer is an individual working within the music industry, whose job is to oversee and manage the recording of an artist's music...

 Declan Sinnott
Declan Sinnott
Declan Sinnott is an Irish musician and producer.Originally from Wexford, where his family ran a record shop in John Street, he came to Dublin in the late sixties. Around 1970 he was a member of the poetry-and-music group Tara Telephone, in which he composed, sang, and played guitar...

 and recorded her first solo album, Mary Black. The album performed well in the Irish charts and it went gold
RIAA certification
In the United States, the Recording Industry Association of America awards certification based on the number of albums and singles sold through retail and other ancillary markets. Other countries have similar awards...

. In 1983 it was honoured by the Irish Independent
Irish Independent
The Irish Independent is Ireland's largest-selling daily newspaper that is published in both compact and broadsheet formats. It is the flagship publication of Independent News & Media.-History:...

and it is still referred to as one of the best Irish albums of the 1980s. Black ventured into the traditional Irish music band De Dannan
De Dannan
De Dannan was an Irish folk music group. They were formed by Frankie Gavin , Alec Finn , Johnny "Ringo" McDonagh and Charlie Piggott as a result of sessions in Hughes's Pub in An Spidéal, County Galway, subsequently inviting Dolores Keane to join the band...

 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 (1984) and Without the Fanfare (1985). These recordings took Black into a more contemporary musical direction. Along with the success of these releases, IRMA
Irish Recorded Music Association
Irish Recorded Music Association is the Irish record industry association. IRMA is a non-profit association set up to manage and control the music industry in the Republic of Ireland.-Goals and activities:...

 named her Entertainer of the Year in 1986 and Best Female Artist in 1987 and 1988.

Black departed from De Dannan in 1986 and 1987 saw the release of her first multi-platinum Irish album, By the Time it Gets Dark. However, Mary's popularity reached new heights with the release of the ground-breaking album, No Frontiers
No Frontiers
No Frontiers is a music album by Irish singer Mary Black. This ground-breaking album assured Black's status as one of Ireland's most respected artists in Europe and also in the US, where the release of the album greatly increased her popularity. It went straight to the top of the Irish album chart...

, in August 1989. It rocketed to the top of the Irish album charts (it stayed in the Top 30 for over a year), and achieved triple-platinum status. Mary's popularity grew in the United States, due to several tours and widespread radio exposure.


Following the success of No Frontiers in the United States, and the extensive airplay received by the lead track "Columbus", Black became a hit NAC recording artist. 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 after it was used in a national railroad television advert. Babes in the Wood performed well in the US and it was voted one of the top 10 albums of the year in the United Kingdom by Today newspaper. The of album release brought about a sell-out tour and her first concert at the Royal Albert Hall
Royal Albert Hall
The Royal Albert Hall is a concert hall situated on the northern edge of the South Kensington area, in the City of Westminster, London, England, best known for holding the annual summer Proms concerts since 1941....

 in January, 1992, which was broadcasted on Channel 4
Channel 4
Channel 4 is a British public-service television broadcaster which began working on 2 November 1982. Although largely commercially self-funded, it is ultimately publicly owned; originally a subsidiary of the Independent Broadcasting Authority , the station is now owned and operated by the Channel...

 a year later. She was once again named Best Female Artist by the IRMA.

Mary was featured on the cover of Billboard
Billboard (magazine)
Billboard is a weekly American magazine devoted to the music industry, and is one of the oldest trade magazines in the world. It maintains several internationally recognized music charts that track the most popular songs and albums in various categories on a weekly basis...

magazine in a story hailing her as "a firm favorite to join the heavy-hitting ranks of such Irish artists as Enya
Enya is an Irish singer, instrumentalist and songwriter. Enya is an approximate transliteration of how Eithne is pronounced in the Donegal dialect of the Irish language, her native tongue.She began her musical career in 1980, when she briefly joined her family band Clannad before leaving to...

, Sinéad O’Connor and Clannad's Máire Brennan in the international marketplace". Her next album The Holy Ground once again reached the top of the Irish album chart. She also toured the US during October/November 1993, in support of the album. The next project saw Mary join forces with six Irish female artists to record the compilation album, A Woman's Heart
A Woman's Heart
A Woman's Heart is a compilation of twelve tracks performed by six female Irish artists, namely Eleanor McEvoy, Mary Black, Dolores Keane, Sharon Shannon, Frances Black, and Maura O'Connell...

. Other artists here included her sister Frances Black
Frances Black
Frances Black is an award-winning Irish singer. A pure vocal tone and an energetic stage presence has made Black one of Ireland’s most popular singers...

, Eleanor McEvoy
Eleanor McEvoy
Eleanor McEvoy is one of Ireland's most accomplished contemporary singer/songwriters. McEvoy composed the song Only A Woman's Heart, title track of A Woman's Heart, the best-selling Irish album in Irish history.-Biography:...

, Dolores Keane
Dolores Keane
Dolores Keane is an Irish folk singer and occasional actress. She was a founding member of the successful group De Dannan, and has since embarked on a very successful solo career, establishing herself as one of the most loved interpreters of Irish song.-Background:Keane was born in a small village...

, Sharon Shannon
Sharon Shannon
Sharon Shannon is an Irish musician. She is best known for her work with the accordion and for her fiddle technique. She also plays the tin whistle and melodeon. Her 1991 album Sharon Shannon is the best selling album of traditional Irish music ever released there...

 and Maura O'Connell
Maura O'Connell
Maura O'Connell is an Irish singer and actress. She is known for her contemporary interpretations of Irish folk songs, strongly influenced by American country music.-Background:...

. Its good sales success spawned another album, A Woman's Heart 2.

Black recorded two duets with American folk singer Joan Baez
Joan Baez
Joan Chandos Baez is an American folk singer, songwriter, musician and a prominent activist in the fields of human rights, peace and environmental justice....

 in the spring of 1995, for Baez's album Ring Them Bells
Ring Them Bells
Ring Them Bells is a live album taken from Joan Baez' April 1995 shows at New York's Bottom Line. In addition to her own solo set, the album featured collaborations with Mary Chapin Carpenter, Mimi Farina, Dar Williams, the Indigo Girls and Mary Black...

. A greatest hits album of Mary's work, Looking Back, was released and she went touring mainly in the US, 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
Studio album
A studio album is an album made up of tracks recorded in the controlled environment of a recording studio. A studio album contains newly written and recorded or previously unreleased or remixed material, distinguishing itself from a compilation or reissue album of previously recorded material, or...

 of the 2000s, Full Tide. Although it was successful, Mary has kept a low musical profile in the last few years. In 2009 she is featured on one track of Steve Martin
Steve Martin
Stephen Glenn "Steve" Martin is an American actor, comedian, writer, playwright, producer, musician and composer....

's album The Crow: New Songs for the 5-String Banjo
The Crow: New Songs for the 5-String Banjo
The Crow: New Songs for the 5-String Banjo is a 2009 album by Steve Martin, featuring Dolly Parton, Vince Gill, Earl Scruggs, Tim O'Brien, Tony Trischka and Mary Black. It contains 15 songs and is the first album focusing on Martin as a musician...


Musical style

For a number of years, WHAT HI-FI? magazine considered Black's voice to be so pure, that it was used as an audiophile
An audiophile is a person who enjoys listening to recorded music, usually in a home. Some audiophiles are more interested in collecting and listening to music, while others are more interested in collecting and listening to audio components, whose "sound quality" they consider as important as the...

 benchmark for comparing the sound quality of different high fidelity systems. A music critic once quoted : "Over the years, Mary Black has come to define what many people see as the essence of Irish woman singers: profound, slightly ethereal and beyond the reaches of trends." Today, Black is held in high esteem in her native Ireland and beyond and is regarded as one of the most important Irish vocalists of her generation.

Personal life

Mary is married to Joe O’Reilly, of Dara Records (established 1983), and they have two sons (Kieran and Danny) and a daughter (Róisín). Her son Danny is a member of the Irish rock band The Coronas
The Coronas
The Coronas are an Irish rock and indie band. They have released three studio albums, Heroes or Ghosts , Tony Was An Ex-Con and "Closer to You"...

. They reside in Dublin, however, they spend much time in County Kerry
County Kerry
Kerry means the "people of Ciar" which was the name of the pre-Gaelic tribe who lived in part of the present county. The legendary founder of the tribe was Ciar, son of Fergus mac Róich. In Old Irish "Ciar" meant black or dark brown, and the word continues in use in modern Irish as an adjective...


Studio albums

  • Mary Black (1983)
  • Collected (1984)
  • Without the Fanfare (1985)
  • By the Time It Gets Dark (1987)
  • No Frontiers
    No Frontiers
    No Frontiers is a music album by Irish singer Mary Black. This ground-breaking album assured Black's status as one of Ireland's most respected artists in Europe and also in the US, where the release of the album greatly increased her popularity. It went straight to the top of the Irish album chart...

  • Babes in the Wood (1991)
  • The Holy Ground (1993)
  • Circus (1995)
  • Shine
    Shine (Mary Black album)
    Mary Black abandons her usual sound and production on Shine, an album of songs recorded in Los Angeles with a combination of local session musicians and members of her Irish band. At the production helm is studio veteran Larry Klein , and he aided in selecting songs from a new crop of songwriters...

  • Speaking with the Angel (1999)
  • Full Tide (2005)

Compilation albums

  • The Best Of Mary Black (1990)
  • The Collection (1992)
  • Looking Back (1995)
  • Song for Ireland [USA] (1998)
  • The Best of Mary Black 1991-2001 & Hidden Harvest (2001)
  • Twenty Five Years, Twenty Five Songs (compilation with new and re-recorded material, 2008)

External links

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