Josef Locke sings Dear Old Donegal from an old recording
Josef Locke was a world renowned tenor from Ireland. He was born as humble Joseph McLaughlin on Derry's Creggan Street, Big Joe was the most popular and highest-paid singer in Britain and Ireland for an entire generation. His voice was so resonant and emotive that the legendary Italian singer Beniamino Gigli begged him to move to Milan and take up opera.
n 1992, Joe found fame among a new generation of music-lovers with the release of the film 'Hear My Song', which was based loosely on his life. At the London première, Joe serenaded Princess Diana. And afterwards, he was stopped in his tracks when he became the celebrity victim on This Is Your Life. An album of his songs was subsequently re-issued and charted in the UK Top 10.
Joe died in hospital in Clane, County Kildare, on 15 October 1999. In the months that followed, the music-lover Michael Sheerin started a campaign to have a memorial to the singer erected in Derry. And in March 2005, a permanent tribute to the city's first superstar was erected outside the City Hotel. The bronze monument was unveiled by John Hume and Phil Coulter at a ceremony attended by Joe's widow Carmel, his daughter Yvette and sister Anne.
Addressing the assembled crowd, Coulter declared: 'Of all of the talent we have produced in the city, nobody ever got the profile of Josef Locke; nobody succeeded in such a spectacular way as Josef.'
The simple headline in the New York Times of 16 October 1999 said it all: 'JOSEF LOCKE, 82, Irish Tenor Who Inspired Tears, Is Dead.'