Last month we lost the legendary Shane MacGowan of The Pogues, but with Christmas coming up, it’s the perfect time to celebrate his greatest song “Fairytale of New York”. Ed Sheeran sang a memorable cover of the Christmas ballad with Anne-Marie at the BBC, giving the song a workover in his signature style.
Sheeran has Irish grandparents, but he was still nervous to tackle the hit from one of the titans of Irish music (MacGowan was born in England to Irish parents). While talking to the BBC before the session, Sheeran predicted that the performance would be contentious, saying “It’s a cover that you shouldn’t really touch… I’m going to get murdered for doing this.”
Sheeran and Anne-Marie changed several of the lyrics on their version of “Fairytale of New York”, and that predictably included replacing the slurs in the fifth verse that are quoted from the characters’ lovers’ tiff. The Irish Mirror reported that Sheeran was “slammed” for this “sanitised version”, quoting the criticisms of several upset netizens. During the same BBC holiday session, Sheeran also sang his hit “Perfect”, which you can watch below.
Looking at the top comments beneath Sheeran’s Pogues cover does reveal a mixed reception, although to say he was slammed is probably laying it on a bit thick. Many fans also made positive comments, such as “Love the instrumentation, the organisation, the chemistry and the communication between each instrumentalist.
They were having fun. That’s real music” and “I didn’t know an Ed Sheeran Christmas album was what I needed, but it is indeed what I need.”
The Pogues frontman Shane MacGowan passed away from pneumonia on November 30, 2023 at age 65 in Dublin, Ireland. The singer was infamous for living a fast and hard life, and this contributed to numerous health issues in the years before his death.
MacGowan’s superb body of work with The Pogues was celebrated in the international press following his passing, with plenty of love given for his most enduring song “Fairytale of New York”, which he wrote with his bandmate Jem Finer in 1987.
The Irish gave MacGowan a hearty send off, as “Fairytale of New York” was the most played song in Ireland on Spotify on December 1 and 2. Irish singer-songwriters Glen Hansard and Lisa O’Neill also performed the unconventional Christmas song at MacGowan’s funeral. “Fairytale of New York” also got some further legs on December 13, when The Pogues reissued it as a charity seven-inch single. The proceeds were donated to the Dublin Simon Community, which is a homeless charity that MacGowan had previously supported.