To One Of The Greats In Celebration of a Milestone Birthday

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While so many people, myself included, were excited and fawning and heaping praise on Mr. Bob Dylan this week – for turning 80 – we missed another milestone birthday from a famous and important musician. Ms. Enya turned 60. (Actually it was at the end of last week…)

Enya is Ireland’s biggest selling solo act of all time. She is the country’s second biggest musical export (behind U2, of course). She is a former member of the band Clannad – and her multi-selling solo albums feature her as producer, performer, composer and singer across up to 10 languages. Yet, so often, she is reduced to background music, written off as the soundtrack to the waxing salon, or at best filed under Guilty Pleasure.

I’m joining a crew that says No more of this nonsense. Let’s talk about Enya as a brilliant composer and music creator. Let’s talk about her as a pioneer. Essentially, in her nearly 40-year solo career, she took ambient music and some vestiges of traditional Celtic music – fused aspects of classical and devotional music, new age and pop (yes, occasionally) to make music that is cursed for being successful. Best-selling = trite. Apparently. Well, you know, if Enya was signed to an obscure indie label she’d have people softly cooing about her in those whispery, wank-tones reserved for The Cocteau Twins or whatever.

(I am not knocking the Cocteau Twins btw).


Luke Turner a co-founder of the excellent website, The Quietus, writes for the Guardian this week ranking 20 of Enya’s best songs. Now there are greatest hits and best-of compilations available, but I think you should check out Turner’s work here. It’s a superb list. And sound reasoning, pardon the pun.

I made a playlist based on his selections. But one of the tracks he mentioned is a B-side and Spotify said no, so I chucked in a cheeky Clannad track to start things off and I’ll link to the Orinoco Flow B-Side (Smaoitím…D’Aodh Agus Do Mháire Uí Dhúgain) below…

There are plenty of champions for Enya’s music out there. And all those sales must count for something right. But it’s been easy for critics and snobs (they aren’t always one and the same) to take easy shots. It’s a shortcut to thinking.

The commercial success is one thing – but where is the respect?

The body of work is phenomenal.

I haven’t always been the biggest Enya fan – but I’ve always liked her. Which is to say I first became aware of her with Orinoco Flow. A song I loved straight away. And always. And I dug the album it launched. That was that for me. For a while.

When I found out she was related to members of Clannad – and in the band briefly too – I started to respect her talent. She wasn’t just a strange one-hit-wonder Celtic pop star. There was depth. And I started to dig a bit further.

The albums Shepherd Moons and The Memory of Trees and A Day Without Rain all had some time on my stereo. But she was in the Guilty Pleasure pile. I listened alone. Never tried to convince anyone she was worth listening to. It was study-music, or sleeping-music, or reading-music. It was the music of solitude. And, that’s fine. Even today, I’m going to fire up a jolly great herbal tea and pull out a spare issue of The New Yorker when listening to Enya. Nine times out of ten anyway. And I’m going to love that experience. But I’m also way more into her music now than I ever was before.

And the final selling point was her last album to date, 2015’s Dark Sky Island. Truth be told I’d all but forgotten about her until the release of that albums. There were other records in her catalogue I didn’t deal with until after. There was a satiating compilation that did the job. And then there was a whole world of ambient music that I was lost inside – and loving. (And some of it was deeply inspired by Enya’s work). But reading articles like this one convinced me not only to give Dark Sky a go but of the absolute brilliance of Enya: The Artist. A class act. A pioneer. A person well overdue some major critical respect.

This weekend I’m reading Chilly Gonzales’ memoir, ENYA: A Treatise on Unguilty Pleasures. And I’m listening to as many of the Enya albums as I can. And banging through that playlist I made now. And as often as I like after.

Recently I spoke with an Anglican priest, for an upcoming podcast episode. We talked about religion and music – his two biggest loves, outside his own family. He told me that if God is going to get you, it’s through music. I listen to the very best of Enya’s work, and as with John Coltrane and Bob Dylan and William Basinski and Marc Ribot and Prince and Burt Bacharach and – yes! – the bloody Carpenters, I think well, if that has to be the case, what a way to go!

I’m leaving you with a pile of Enya’s albums to work through too – just in case…

And though we’ve had more than enough words about Bob Dylan this week I decided, rather than write even more about him I would make a playlist. It was so hard to narrow it down but I leave you here with My Top 80 Bob Dylan Songs in honour of Bob on his 80th and as previously mentioned I wrote a few lines about him (80 in fact). And below a link to my podcast chat with Jonny Potts where we go Full Talkin’ Bob Dylan’s 80th Blues

And it’s Friday and the weekend is either here or fast approaching, depends on a) your perspective and b) when you’re reading this. So if Enya and Bob Dylan are still never going to be your thing I got you coveredwith the 14th installment of a Something For The Weekend playlist.

Happy weekend.

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