With the fifth anniversary of Rory Gallagher's death being commemorated tomorrow, Donal tells one poignant story to sum up his belief.
A year after Rory’s death, from a complication following a liver transplant, Donal was in a studio overseeing the remastering of his brother's music for CD release.
Rory, who was born in Donegal, but raised in Cork as his family moved there soon after his birth, hadn't wanted to release much of his music on CD until it had been remastered. He never got round to it, so, after his death, the task fell to Donal, who admits it was painful.
However, he says: “Time's a great healer and I listen to his music all the time. He's my favourite artist.”
The entire back catalogue was completed last March with the remixing sessions taking place in 1996. One of the engineers had been brought in by Donal because he was one of Rory’s original engineers. Donal didn't have a problem when the man decided to record the mix in a different way to how Rory would have done it.
Taking up the story, Donal say s “ Because he had worked with Rory so much, I indulged him. But during the mixing, the mixing desk, which was world class quality, developed a fault which had never happened before.
“The engineers couldn't work out what was wrong with it, even when they examined it afterwards. One of the guys remarked that maybe Rory didn't want the music mixed this way, so we altered the mix to how Rory would have preferred it. After that, the problem went away and didn't occur again.”
Donal won't say exactly how Rory could have influenced things, but offers: “He was always very strongly opinionated about his music and this incident seemed natural because he was a very spiritual person.
“If he had the power to do this, he would have done it. I don't want to say how but I'm sure he had something to do with it.”
Nothing could have deterred Donal from working on his brother's behalf.
Even now, he is working on a DVD recording of a documentary of an Irish tour Rory took between 1973 and 1974.
Far from seeing the work as an ordeal he says: “I feel privileged to have this wonderful legacy of him. I've got recordings of him, both visually and audially, going right back to him at nine years old in Cork. It's like having a CD ROM of his life. It would be nice to be able to write a different ending though.”
At the same time, Donal and his family appreciates their good fortune: “Not many people have as much as we do to remember their loved ones by.”
Although Donal listens to his brother's music, he says there is no particular time or occasion when he plays it. “I put it on all the time without thinking about it. I listen to his music now as a fan as much as his brother.”
And he feels lucky that he has more than a fan's insight into the songs. “I know many of the circumstances in which they were written, what he was thinking and what influenced the lyrics.”
It is these thoughts that Donal misses most, saying the two of them shared a telepathic understanding.
“We all used to have in depth family conversations and he could sum up a situation in one word. I miss that. I miss the understanding.”
But he also misses how Rory made him feel: “He was such a strong person that you felt you could defeat the world with him around. You felt as though you were in the front line of life with someone like him.”
When it is suggested that Rory might have thought the same about Donal, the modest, self deprecating reply could have come from the guitar maestro himself.
“I don't know. Perhaps without me he would have been even bigger. But life is full of luck and co-incidence.”
Donal also speculates how his brother would have continued to grow professionally had he lived. Rory always spoke of his dream of continuing into his 60’s and Donal is certain he still had plenty left to give.
“It's a very good debate
how he would have developed, but I know he had more ideas of what to do
with his music. It's a shame that he didn't get the chance to try them
There is also an argument, which can go for any artist who dies early, that Rory’s legend has increased with his death.
While Donal acknowledges that possibility, he says: “It's no consolation to anyone to say he's getting more success now, but I do feel happy that he lived a full life, even though he died young.
“He packed more into his 47 years than other people would if they lived to 100. He'd been round the world several times before most people had got out of bed.”
One of the comforts Donal has got out of Rory’s death is discovering exactly how much his brother meant. But even that is tinged with a little bitterness as he explains.
“There's a lot of people, since his death, who have come out and said how much he influenced them and I'm proud of that. But it would have been nice if they could have done that while he was alive.”
Then, begrudgingly understanding their sentiments, he adds: “I suppose there's no competition from him now he's dead.”
Donal also feels intensely
proud now with all the memorials which have sprung up in his brother's
name. Of course, Cork has Rory Gallagher Place, and a sculpture dedicated
In addition, Crowley Music Centre on McCurtain Street, where Rory bought his first guitar — a 1961 Sunburst Stratocaster and thought to be the first Stratocaster in Ireland —has a plaque outside the shop remembering him.
Even outside Ireland he is remembered. Paris has a street named after him, Lille has a week named after him, and there's talk of some kind of memorial in London.
And this week, Ballyshannon
hospital, where he was born, unveiled a plaque in his name.
Donal, ever the proud brother, was there, and wishes Rory could see how much people are remembering him and honouring him now.
However, he says: “I'm more proud of it than he would have been, I always felt I was more proud of his achievements than he was.
“But I'm sure, in his own way, Rory knows exactly what is going on and sees everything and is very happy about it.”
If Donal always had beliefs
about the dead watching over the living, you could say they were strengthened
one day in a recording studio.
“One night I was in a bar and some people came up to me saying my brother had been in the night before. I didn’t know, but he’d passed himself off as me so that he could have a night off. So when I walked in, they assumed I was Rory.”
Despite Donal’s insistence that he wasn’t the great Rory Gallagher, the group wouldn’t listen, and invited him along to a christening.
“There was no telling them I wasn’t Rory so I went to the christening, and everything was fine until someone produced a guitar.”
It was at this point that Donal decided it was time to leave.
“I wasn’t so concerned they’d discover I wasn’t Rory because I’d already told them that so many times.
“What I was more worried about was that after l’d played, they would go away thinking how badly Rory had performed for them.”
Thinking quickly, Donal
said he had to go to the toilet before he could play anything. His new
found friends never saw him again.
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