The daughter of the celebrated folk singer Ewan MacColl, Kirsty enjoyed success in her own right as an accomplished songwriter and pop vocalist. Originally signed to Stiff Records as a 16-year-old after they heard her singing with punk outfit the Drug Addix, she was most unfortunate not to secure a massive hit with the earnest 'They Don't Know'. Many years later, the television comedienne Tracey Ullman took an inferior rendition of the song to number 2 in the UK charts. MacColl had to wait until 1981 for her first chart hit. A change of label to Polydor Records brought her deserved UK Top 20 success with the witty 'There's A Guy Works Down The Chip Shop Swears He's Elvis'. Her interest in country and pop influences was discernible on her strong debut, Desperate Characters.
In 1984, MacColl married producer Steve Lillywhite, and in the same year she returned to the charts with a stirring cover version of Billy Bragg's 'A New England'. During the next couple of years, she gave birth to two children, but still found herself in demand as a backing singer. She guested on recordings by a number of prominent artists, including Simple Minds, The Smiths, The Rolling Stones, Talking Heads, Robert Plant, Van Morrison and Morrissey. In December 1987, MacColl enjoyed her highest ever chart placing at number 2 when duetting with Shane MacGowan on The Pogues' evocative vignette of Irish emigration, 'Fairytale Of New York'. In 1989, she returned to recording solo with the highly accomplished Kite. The album included the powerful 'Free World' and an exceptionally alluring cover version of The Kinks' 'Days', which brought her back to the UK Top 20. Smiths' guitarist Johnny Marr guested on several of the album's tracks and appeared on the excellent follow-up released in 1991. Electric Landlady, an amusing pun on Jimi Hendrix's Electric Ladyland, was another strong album that demonstrated MacColl's diversity and songwriting talent. The haunting, dance-influenced 'Walking Down Madison' gave her another Top 40 UK hit. Her career was sympathetically compiled on Galore, which demonstrated a highly accomplished singer, even though four albums in 15 years was hardly the sign of a prolific artist. MacColl returned over five years later with the sparkling Latin American collection, Tropical Brainstorm. Her revived career was cut short by a tragic accident in December. The singer was hit and killed by a speedboat while swimming with her children off the coast of Mexico. She had recently finished recording a series on Cuba for BBC Radio 2. Only five albums in a career lasting 20 years; however each album contains at least two gems that will ensure that MacColl is remembered as a great songwriter, and not just a pretty voice who had a famous father.
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