Singer Val Doonican dies at 88

Val Doonican has died, aged 88
Val Doonican has died, aged 88
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SINGER and TV entertainer Val Doonican has died aged 88.

His family told the BBC that he died “peacefully” on Wednesday night.

The Irish crooner was a big star in the 1960s and was a regular fixture on the BBC with the Val Doonican Show, which featured singing performances by artists.

Doonican was noted for his colourful sweaters and for singing his closing song on each show while sitting in a rocking chair.

Doonican notched up a string of hits in the 1960s and 1970s including Walk Tall, The Special Years, Elusive Butterfly and What Would I Be, as well as the Irish novelty songs Paddy McGinty’s Goat and Rafferty’s Motor Car.

He was married to Lynnette with whom he had two daughters.

Val Doonican has died, aged 88

Val Doonican has died, aged 88

Sir Bruce Forsyth said Doonican was a “lovely man”.

Sir Bruce said: “It is very sad. He was always a lovely man to work with.

“He had the top television show on the BBC. He had the warmth, the voice and the sweaters. He was one of the warmest personalities I think we have ever had.

“I did his show and then he did a couple of my shows.

Val Doonican has died, aged 88

Val Doonican has died, aged 88

“He was a very warm person, and number one in his field. He brought a lovely warmth with his personality and was a very popular man.”

The family said: “Until 87, he was as fit as a flea. It was just old age, I’m afraid - the batteries ran out.”

Singer and actress Elaine Paige said on Twitter: “Sad to hear of Val Doonican’s passing ... RIP Val” and posted a clip of the pair singing Can’t Get Used To Losing You from 1983.

In a statement the family said: “He was a wonderful husband, father and grandfather and will be greatly missed by family, friends and his many fans.”

Doonican was born in Waterford and began his musical career gigging in his home town and appearing on Irish radio.

He moved to England in 1951 to pursue his dream of cracking showbusiness but his big break did not come until more than a decade later when, in 1963, he appeared on Sunday Night At The Palladium.

His eight-minute slot changed his life and he was soon signed up for a record deal and offered his BBC show, which ran for more than 20 years.

He retired from performing in 2009 after more than 60 years in showbusiness.

Doonican, with his laid-back armchair style and his warm Irish demeanour, was one of the most popular and best-selling singers of his generation.

It took him years to establish his niche, but once he had achieved success he remained at the top of his profession for more than two decades, a regular and a firm favourite on some of the most widely watched television shows of the time.

His comfortable, easy-going manner was often seen as a welcome contrast to some of the rackety pop groups that were starting to blast the airwaves.

Michael Valentine Doonican was born in Watford on February 3 1927, the youngest of eight children.

His family was poor, but he often spoke of the great happiness of his childhood. When he was 14, his world was shattered by his father’s death from cancer of the throat and mouth. He felt compelled to leave school to help support the family, and started work immediately in an orange box factory.

However, he had been writing and arranging music from a very young age, harmonising his friends’ versions of the songs they saw performed on film. His first “professional” engagement came at Waterford Fete - singing We’re Three Caballeros!

Eventually, Doonican joined a band as drummer and was ultimately hired to take part in a sausage commercial.

In 1951, he was approached by representatives of the Four Ramblers and invited to join them in England, where they are best remembered for Riders Of The Range on BBC Radio. They also presented Workers’ Playtime, their salaries augmented by gifts from the factories where the broadcast was being made.

By then, Doonican had bought himself an amplifier for his guitar. He made a case to protect the amplifier by using an old theatre poster advertising entertainer Lynnette Rae, who was rebuilding her career after an operation for throat cancer.

The pair met, and were married in the early 1960s, and had two daughters.

On one tour, Doonican stepped forward, guitar in hand, and perched on a stool and sang a couple of ballads and Paddy McGinty’s Goat. Afterwards, he was urged to go solo, which he did.

He secured a weekly radio show with the BBC Light Programme.

Doonican continued to play cabaret and occasional theatre gigs but despite being a regular radio personality, no recording contracts were forthcoming. But he was spotted at a concert by Val Parnell, and booked on to Sunday Night At The London Palladium.

That eight-minute spot, he said, changed his life. By the Monday, there were recording contracts and TV show offers flooding into his manager’s office. As he said many times, he was “an overnight success after 17 years”.

He went on to record more than 50 albums, sales of which register in the millions, and he had fans worldwide.

He charted many times with singles and albums, appearing on Top Of The Pops to sing hits such as Walk Tall, The Special Years, What Would I Be, and Elusive Butterfly.

His TV shows ran for 24 years, from humble beginnings to being the mainstay of the Saturday night TV schedules. His Christmas Eve shows became a national institution.

He was also a landscape painter of considerable merit.