Love him or loathe him, Daniel O’Donnell is now one of the most successful pop acts ever. Joe Nawaz doffs his rock’n’roll cap to the Donegal crooner
The Donegal Democrat was unequivocal. It was perfectly clear who the fourth, and perhaps greatest, name to be carved into the Mount Rushmore of popular music should be.
“Not even The Rolling Stones, U2 or Sting...” the paper boldly proclaimed, “has managed to achieve this rate of consistent success over such a time span.”
It wasn’t The Beatles they were referring to (who, to be fair, should have bumped Sting in the first instance).
It was, of course, Daniel Francis Noel O’Donnell, or “wee Daniel” to his friends and fans, who are often one and the very same.
Not for O’Donnell the hedonistic excess of the Stones, the bloated egos of U2 or the, erm, tantric antics of Sting.
Rather, the squeaky clean Kincasslagh crooner has staked his claim among the greats by being a hard-working, friendly sort and, oh yes, placing at least one album on the charts every year since 1987.
Now, his latest recorded outpouring, entitled Songs From The Movies (And More), has finally nudged him from mere local legend into the echelons of rock royalty.
The likes of Adele and The Script were as under-achieving lambs to the charting slaughter as Songs From The Movies (And More) swept all but the six bigger selling albums aside that week to hit number 7.
And it continued to sell in quantity even long after it became apparent that “and More” simply meant other songs that weren’t from the movies and wasn’t the titillating prospect of a free life-size O’Donnell poster.
“We have released a record every year and we have a great following and it is amazing I suppose. I’m delighted with this record,” was the suitably regal response from the great man himself.
So what’s the secret of this essentially unknowable icon’s longevity?
It could be argued, with some violent force, that the legendary status of O’Donnell doesn’t stem from his music at all, which one unkind critic described as the kind of noise that makes one yearn for the airless vacuum of space.
Nor can his enduring popularity be entirely down to his coveted Donegal person of the year gong, which he ran away with back in 1989.
No, it’s in his genuine and infectious delight at getting to sing for people who’d happily take him home with them, and maybe even pay for his taxi ride back.
As they used to say, Daniel O’Donnell is the kind of person that you could take home to meet your mammy.
We may find it all too easy to mock this simple son of Donegal.
Didn’t we all adopt a punky sneer when he was on Gerry Kelly, all smiles, chuntering away in front of an audience of greying groupies?
But the difference between him and that more fraudulent Irish pop saint Bono is that Daniel meant it when he said that each and every one of those old ladies was important to him.
What could be more rock and roll than actually bucking the cliché of excess, aloofness and cool sunglasses?
And speaking of bucking trends, didn’t he also marry for love? And the fragrant Majella was a divorcee to boot — a brave move in conservative Ireland for a so-called mummy’s boy.
Daniel O’Donnell simply transcends sexuality, class and even ancient tribal enmities. Who else can you think of that can unite the warring factions of Hugo Duncan and Big T listeners?
When Daniel deigned to grace Top Of The Pops in 1992 with his raw animal interpretation of I Just Want To Dance With You, nobody watching BBC1 that balmy, fateful night, male or female, gay or straight, could have been in any doubt that he was singing just for them.
So then, Daniel O’Donnell, gentleman crooner, lover, husband and the kind of guy that makes unionists pine for the full nine-county Ulster and gives nuns funny turns — we salute you.
If that offer to dance is still on the table, I’m happy to let you lead.
How he entered pop’s history books
Daniel O’Donnell entered the record books by becoming the first recording artist to have at least one album in the UK charts every year since 1988 — a staggering 25 consecutive years. Sir Cliff Richard, Madonna and U2 have all been unable to achieve such a record.
The latest offering from the Co Donegal man, Songs from the Movies and More, has entered the UK charts at number 28.
Martin Talbot, boss of the Official Charts Company, praised Daniel’s “consistency and output