Mary Coughlan was born in Galway in 1956
as the oldest of five. As a young teenager she cut convent
school and developed a taste for drugs and drink. A
period of depression and a suicide attempt follow at
the tender age of 17. After spells in hospitals and
a belated graduation from school she left her parents
home in search for freedom. "It wasnt that
I had a horrible family, Mary explains, "there
was just a lack of communication and trust. She
took various odd jobs to keep afloat. In 1974 she moved
to England and became a mother at the age of 20. After
having two more children, Mary walked out on her husband
in 1981. In 1984, Mary Coughlan went back in her hometown
of Galway. She then started singing in public and was
promptly discovered by Dutch musician and producer Erik
Visser, whose group Flairck was a great success in Europe
at the time. Marys debut album TIRED AND EMOTIONAL
sold 100,000 copies.
Marys success was then followed by the renowned
period. After some years of great success Mary Coughlan
lost her house, car and record contract and turned into
a severe alcoholic. At the age of 29 she started drinking
seriously and was hospitalized more than thirty times.
Looking back from a distance she blamed herself: "I
just couldnt handle it. I was angry at everyone,
angry at myself. Above all, I was angry, ready to blame
everyone. I didnt take responsibility and a lot
of people fucked me over. And so, despite of some
success in a side career as an actress, the downward
spiral of her personal life continued until Mary Coughlan
hit rock bottom in 1993. The public perception in Ireland
was no longer concerned about Coughlan - the singer
and general interest in her music faded slowly.
Mary Coughlan stared treatment for alcoholism and began
a new relationship in the mid 1990s. She had two more
kids and released AFTER THE FALL in 1997. Its
the album that heralded her return to form. Moreover,
due to the fact that shes one of the many female
artists featured on the enormously successful "A
Womans Heart CD series, her name never completely
disappeared from public memory. But Mary Coughlan couldnt
stand the image of the suffering, lonely Irish woman
communicated in the series and neither does she want
to be considered a victim.
RETURN AND SECOND SUCCESS:
Mary Coughlan returned to the music scene as a survivor.
Her public stance concerning the topics of abortion,
Catholic moral bigotry, and the role of women in Irish
society in general, are still marked by brutal honesty
and frank criticism. For the AFTER THE FALL project
some of the most talented younger Irish writers contributed
exclusive new songs. The jazz and blues-inflected timbre
of the famous Coughlan voice was still intact and the
album became a creative catharsis marked by autobiographical
themes: divorce, abuse, self-loathing and redemption
everything was confronted in the new songs.
In the new millenium, Mary Coughlan started working
on the grandest project of her career so far. With the
staging of "Lady Sings The Blues on various
Dublin and London, stages a dream came true for the
Galway singer. The elaborate multi-media stage production
was dedicated to the life and art of Billie Holiday.
Mary had a number of elegant 40s-style outfits made
and matter-of-factly declared that for this particular
occasion she would just put up her hair, get the contact
lenses in and put on one of the dresses. In case of
disaster, audiences could at least remember the fine
dresses - excellent proof that the laconic nature of
the famed Coughlan style of Irish humor was still pretty
much intact these days.
But nothing went wrong and the show was a great success.
But it wasnt a comeback in the true sense of the
word. Mary Coughlan never really stopped singing even
in her darkest hours.