I just received news about Christie’s death this morning and wanted to share a little bit about what he meant to me as a songwriter and a performer. I first heard Christie perform live in the Opera House in Belfast when I was sixteen. I had heard “If you were to fall in love with me” on the radio and was entranced by the melody and by his voice and that of his daughter Hermione. So I bought a ticket to the gig, caught the bus to Belfast and sat bewitched through the gig. It’s always hard to capture an atmosphere in words but it was something to do with the innocence and bravado of the songs, the self-deprecating humour, the way he closed the gap between audience and performer and brought you right into his world, building sites, emigration, working class London and grief and stars and love. It was a common-place world, yet completely magical and it left me with an sense of yearning, that I would love to do what Christie was doing that night, sending people home from a concert happy and uplifted in some way. I asked him to sign a t-shirt for me that night, “one day you’ll be doing this too”. He was shy and surrounded by people at the cassette stand.
Last year, David Hull asked me if I would like to do some gigs with Christie and I remember them as being some of the most fun gigs I have ever done. You can tell a man by the company he keeps and Christie had great people travelling with him. His manager Fran Cotton and sound engineer Martin Cregan helped make those gigs special and in a strange “full circle” way, I will always remember the gig we played together in the Opera House in Belfast as one of the most perfect ever. I was pacing with nervousness before I went on because it was sold out, but the sound was gorgeous, the audience were friendly and Christie had asked me to duet with him on “If you were to fall in love with me”. I left the venue that night in the same state I’d left it eighteen years after first seeing Christie in the Opera House, happy and lifted up.
Like his songs and his world, Christie Hennessy was an ordinary man who was also completely and bewitchingly magical. I feel extremely privileged to have shared music and time with him.