Brian Kennedy survived a childhood on the infamous Falls Road, West Belfast at the height of its hellish history against all the odds to carve an extraordinary career in Music. In his own words he says, “I shouldn’t have become a singer really, given where and how my life started, but my voice had other plans and saved me in the end.” That Voice changed the course of his whole life forever.
Brian Kennedy is one of Ireland’s most inspired and revered ambassadors of music. Originally from Belfast, Brian remains one of Ireland’s most popular singing stars. From harmonising with ambulance sirens as a child to overcoming stage fright to be discovered by the now legendary Svengali Simon Fuller, Brian’s story is one of talent, resilience and bravery. With Van Morrison on the epic ‘Blues & Soul Revue’ tour, he shared the stage with Van Morrison and a breath taking cast of some of the greatest artists in history: Joni Mitchell, Bob Dylan, Ray Charles and John Lee Hooker. Brian has sung with Stevie Wonder at Ronnie Scotts & incredibly proudly, he is one of only a few to have sung with the late legendary Jeff Buckley. Throughout the relentless touring with Van Morrison, Brian somehow managed to maintain a stream of chart-making albums. ‘A Better Man’ and ‘Now That I Know What I Want’ both went platinum at No.1. In June 2019 Brian completed a five-month chemotherapy chapter and was given the all clear. His journey with cancer resulted in him producing a new EP entitled ‘Recovery’. 2020 sees Brian celebrating the 30th anniversary of the ‘Great War of Words’. We are so proud to welcome Brian to the Workplace Wellbeing Awards to share his story of Life, Love and Happiness!
Brian Kennedy survived a childhood on the infamous Falls Road, West Belfast, at the height of its hellish history against all the odds to carve an extraordinary career in music. “It’s a miracle that I survived my childhood and became a singer really, given where and how my life started, but somehow my voice had other plans and saved me in the end.” That voice set him on a course that changed his life forever.
From harmonizing with ambulance sirens as a child to finally overcoming stage fright, his gradual ascent was nothing short of incredible. He busked on the dangerous streets of his hometown whatever the political climate until a sudden escape to London, when only 18 saw him surviving in the only way he knew how. He sang unaccompanied in the underground stations and outside the Dominion Theatre, sometimes literally in order to eat and until he finally saved up enough money for a guitar. He lived in various illegal squats before eventually being discovered by the now legendary Simon Fuller [Pop Idol, Annie Lennox, The Spice Girls.]
Brian is first and foremost a live performer and songwriter declaring “music is my lifeblood.” His constant touring from Ireland and the UK to Australia, Germany and the USA, including the major global festivals, has resulted in an ever-growing international fan base, over a phenomenal 30 year career.
His work with Van Morrison has been well documented. The Belfast legend invited Brian to a rehearsal one day that resulted in him being featured as guest lead singer on the now unforgettable ‘Blues & Soul Revue’ tour. Thanks to Van’s ongoing mentoring and generosity, Brian found himself sharing vocal duties on stages across the globe over a six-year period with Morrison and a breathtaking cast of some of the greatest artists in history: Joni Mitchell, Bob Dylan, Ray Charles and John Lee Hooker to name but a few. Madison Square Garden in New York was a far cry from the Falls Road. His unique Irish voice can be heard harmonizing and answering Van on five of his major hit albums including “A Night In San Francisco” and “Days Like This.”
Brian has done impromptu performances with Stevie Wonder at Ronnie Scotts in London and, incredibly and proudly, he is one of only a few to have also sung with the late legendary Jeff Buckley at Sin-É in New York.
Throughout the relentless touring with Van Morrison, Brian somehow managed to maintain a stream of chart-making albums. ‘A Better Man’ (1996) and ‘Now That I Know What I Want’ (1999), both went platinum at No.1 and earned him the awards of Irish Best Male Artist and Irish Best Male Album, as did the highly acclaimed ‘Homebird’ (2006) and cover album ‘Interpretations’ (2008).
Brian was the first international artist to record the incredibly uplifting anthem ‘You Raise Me Up’ by Secret Garden in 2001. His heart-wrenching LIVE performance of ‘You Raise Me Up’ at the funeral of Irish football legend George Best was released as a single and earned him a spot in the top 5 of the UK charts.
He is a natural TV & Radio host as well as lead performer on diverse international stages. From his role in Riverdance-On Broadway in New York (nine months/over 300 performances) to Eurovision 2006 in Athens, Brian also found time to write and publish two fiction novels that were an instant success and he continues to receive many prestigious awards, including the 2010 Ireland Meteor Lifetime Achievement Award for Music, and an even rarer Honorary Doctorate Degree of Letters by the University of Ulster for his contribution to literature and Arts.
2016 found Brian busy in the studio recording a 32-track double CD ‘The Essential Collection’ comprising all brand-new recordings from the past and present including a duet with Boy George. Brian maintains that “music is the language of emotion,” and after all his years gigging and recording with Van Morrison, he prizes the live gig above all else. “Van always said you’re only as good as your last gig.”
In 2016, Brian began a challenging journey with cancer and he cites singing and performing as the motivation for staying positive. “The gigs make everything worthwhile, the fans’ support means the world to me” he said. “If anything, the diagnosis and treatment has given me greater focus and determination to get through it all. Music is the ultimate healer and my voice has never let me down.”
During October 2016, Brian’s iconic album ‘A Better Man’ turned 20 and what better place to celebrate than on stage doing what he loves best. He performed the entire album in Dublin’s prestigious Vicar Street venue on October 13, 2016.
In 2017, following a sell-out run at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, he released the triple ‘Live at Vicar Street, Dublin’ double CD & bonus DVD before heading to China for a tour with Secret Garden where they had a huge hit with Brian performing ‘You Raise Me Up.’
Brian recorded his first ever collection of his most beloved Christmas songs with brand new, breath-taking arrangements on some very old and some very new classic Christmas songs resulting in the album ‘CHRISTMASSY.’ Brian has never been shy about his love/hate relationship with that time of year but as he says “having a journey with cancer really made me look at the world in a different way, and as I returned to full health I really wanted to re-introduce myself to Christmas in the most positive way I could think of and that is through music. I’m acutely aware that for a lot of people the Yuletide is a time of year that can often be so difficult and lonely and dreaded for all kinds of reasons. I decided the thing that seems to win me over every year is the soundtrack of incredible timeless songs that come around and put a smile on so many faces around the world whatever the circumstances.”
In October of 2018 Brian had a nine-hour operation that was life changing and in recovery he returned to the stage a mere two weeks after leaving hospital to sing at a fundraiser for a friend. He has continued to perform selectively as part of the healing process.
In June 2019 Brian completed a six-month chemotherapy chapter and was given the all clear! He is currently working on a new EP entitled “Recovery” and will perform these new songs for the first time at the 2019 Edinburgh Festival Fringe in August.