Tommy Sands, Co Down's singer, songwriter and social activist has achieved something akin to legendary status in his own lifetime.
From the pioneering days with the highly influential Sands Family, bringing Irish Music from New York's Carnegie Hall to Moscow's Olympic Stadium, he has developed into one of the most powerful songwriters and enchanting solo performers in Ireland today.
His songwriting, which draws the admiration of Nobel Poet Laureate Seamus Heaney and father of folk music Pete Seeger, prompts respected US magazine "Sing Out" to regard him as "the most powerful songwriter in Ireland, if not the rest of the world".
His songs, like There were Roses, and Daughters and Sons, which have been recorded by Joan Baez, Kathy Matthea, Dolores Keane, Sean Keane, Frank Patterson, Dick Gaughan, The Dubliners and many others have been translated into many languages and are currently included in the English language syllabus in German secondary schools.
Although constantly performing on stages all around the world he prides in taking his music down from the lights and into the darker corners of society. One of his current projects, teaching underprivledged prisoners in Reno, Nevada to write their own song with which to defend themselves in court is currently creating a wide spread stir in the world of community art in the United States. Back home in Northern Ireland he has just completed a CD written with Protestant and Catholic schoolchildren about their own areas, in towns and villages around Northern Ireland. During the Good Friday Agreement Talks, his impromptu performance with a group of children and Lambeg drummers was described by Northern Ireland Deputy First Minister Seamus Mallon as "a defining moment in the Peace Process".
Mary McAleese, who was cast
in a romantic role with Tommy in a local play just before she became President
of the Irish Republic has kept up the friendship and periodically calls
upon him for advice on cultural events.
In December 2002 although the
Northern Ireland Assembly had been stood down, Sands managed to persuade
the Members to return for a special Christmas musical party together.
As one politican after another joined him on stage for a song, Loyalist
leader David Ervine was heard to remark, "Tommy Sands is the only
man, without a private army, who can intimidate me."
Tommy Sands is one of the most important songwriters in Ireland if not the rest of the world.... SING OUT (USA)
The gentle songs of a gentle man, ringing out above the tumult and the shouting....Through people like Tommy Sands there will be an answer....BELFAST TELEGRAPH
Most gifted songwriter...with an ability to write on serious subjects which come across as songs rather than sermons...also well able to be extremely funny in the way he puts words together....IRISH TIMES
You'd have to be some mean class of bastard to dislike this music...Eamon McCann (HOT PRESS)
"There were Roses" is certainly one of the best songs ever written about the "Irish Problem"...TO BEAT THE DRUM (Scotland)
Timeless Sands still with irresistable lure....IRISH NEWS
Tommy Sands has achieved that difficult but wonderful balance between knowing and loving the traditions of his home and being concerned with the future of the whole world....PETE SEEGER
I love the version of 'Where Have All The Flowers Gone' by Tommy Sands. That is the best version that has ever been recorded. It is just chilling, isn't it? ......JOHN STEWART (KINGSTON TRIO)
In two minutes the entire audience
were singing with him "Armenia, Armenia", a very moving performer...PRAVDA
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