It’s not every artist who deserves a Late Late Show special and a one-off RTÉ documentary when they turn 60, let alone a nationwide barrage of congratulations and messages.
But Daniel O’Donnell has always been in a league of his own when it comes to his innate popularity with certain segments of discerning Irish audiences.
Despite all the fanfare about him entering a new decade, the soft-spoken singer revealed that reaching 60 was a gift in itself, as it was an age his late father Francis never reached.
“I’m not at all the type of person that an event makes me do something special,” he says. “I’m very much someone who does things when I feel like I want to do them. I’m happy to be 60. My father died at 49 and the five of us become so aware of how young he was as we age.
“My oldest brother will be 73 this year and Margo is 71, so they have outlived my father by more than 20 years. And 70 is not old either. I think we’re all very aware of how good it is to be alive, not that we’re scared of getting old – we’re just excited to be old and still be here. I believe that old age is the reward for longevity.”
His father died of a heart attack in 1967, leaving his mother Julia alone with five young children, but the early tragedy obviously strengthened young Daniel.
“I was only six, I don’t remember him at all. He died very suddenly. He got sick in the morning and was dead within a few hours,” says Daniel.
While his father never witnessed his success firsthand, his mother Julia was one of his biggest supporters.
She famously hosted annual tea parties at her family home in Kincasslagh, Co. Donegal, which often drew thousands of fans as Daniel entertained them with song. She died in 2014 aged 94 and is buried with her father in St Mary’s Cemetery, Belcruit. He visits her grave as often as he can.
His professional success speaks for itself and over the past 40 years he has recorded more than 50 albums including one titled for this birthday 60.
He has sold more than 15 million records, won multiple awards and received an honorary MBE 20 years ago. Still selling dates in America, he also achieved huge success when he turned to television to make his own reality show with his other half Daniel and Majella’s B&B road trip. When it first aired in 2015, it attracted nearly half a million viewers.
His open personality lends itself perfectly to the reality TV format. Let’s not forget how he taught Dermot Bannon to go over his budget room for improvement Special in 2018 in a scene where viewers cheered him on from their couches.
At his popular road trip show, which saw him staying with various fans and B&B owners across the country, he announced he was definitely ready to do another one.
“So many people ask me and Majella about it, no matter where we are,” he says.
“We hadn’t thought about it but then, pre-Covid, they asked us to do something. We thought, ‘We’re on enough TV, we’re going to give it a break’. But then they just rebooted the old ones, so we might as well have made a new one.
“But if it ever came up that we could do a new one, we probably would. It was a lot of fun and people seemed to like it. It’s nice. You meet the public and you go into people’s homes and there’s always an intrigue for all of us.
“And I think when it comes to ordinary people, everyone has an extraordinary life, even if it’s in a quiet way. So getting a little peek inside someone’s house and what’s going on there and just having all the fun you can have, I think that’s what drew people to it.
“It was very well received and we had a lot of fun. We didn’t know where we were going or what we were going to do, but it was fun.”
He can also not wait to return to the stage at INEC in Killarney from August 25th to 28th in what will be his first concert series in over two years.
“We are looking forward to it. This is our third try at this show. It was supposed to happen in 2020 and then 2021 so it’s now 2022, we’re really looking forward to doing the shows again. It’s the home crowd and there’s always a great atmosphere,” he says.
Daniel is used to taking breaks from his hectic schedule so he was quick to adjust to the sudden calm of lockdown.
“It wasn’t such a shock to me,” he says. “I was used to not doing anything for a month or two and that got stretched to over a year and a half. But I really feel for the younger singers who are starting now. They are just establishing themselves and it is difficult for them.
“I’ll get back out there and people will know who I am, but the younger ones who are getting going are having a hard time starting now.”
https://www.independent.ie/entertainment/music/daniel-odonnell-my-father-died-suddenly-at-49-im-delighted-to-be-here-at-60-41480889.html Daniel O’Donnell: “My father died suddenly at 49 – I’m happy to be here at 60”