Q Magazine – obituary by Andrew Collins
‘Slightly surreal in death, as in life, Ian Dury shared obituary space in the newspapers with Dr Alex Comfort who wrote The Joy Of Sex’… in Will Birch’s recent account of the pub rock years, No Sleep Till Canvey Island, he concludes that Ian Dury “reaffirmed the spirit of rock’n’roll, and the belief that the underdog could somehow make a mark.” A fitting epitaph, though written before cancer finally bowed him… even [Dave] Robinson couldn’t have predicted that Dury’s death would be an item on Newsnight, front-page news, and cause Radio 4 to re-broadcast his Desert Island Discs… Ian Dury – the poet, the clown, the showman.’
Two years earlier, Ian had been diagnosed with terminal cancer. The tabloids got hold of the story and reporters gathered on his Hampstead doorstep. Ian’s response was to call up two respected journalists he knew, Neil Spencer at The Observer and Janie Lawrence at the Independent and give them the story in an attempt to thwart the tabloids.
Ian: “I told my mate who had come with me, ‘I’ve been diagnosed old son’.”
The Independent on Sunday 10 May 1998 – article by Janie Lawrence
Despite the setback, Ian and the Blockheads completed their new album - Mr Love Pants - their first studio recording in 16 years. ‘What joy to welcome Ian Dury & the Blockheads back into the fold’, wrote David Sinclair in The Times, describing the songs as ‘rich in comic narrative… [with] discreet musical flair and simple human warmth’.
The Times 26 June 1998
21 months later…
The news of Ian’s death broke on the morning of 27 March 2000, making the front pages of most of the national newspapers the following day. In the Daily Telegraph, Neil McCormick wrote: ‘Any list of reasons to be cheerful about British music of the past three decades would have to include Ian Dury, whose always witty, usually exuberant and frequently moving amalgamation of music hall and rock’n’roll made him one of its most unusual and inspirational figures.’
Daily Telegraph 28 March 2000
Obituaries appeared in the broadsheets, many of which incorrectly gave Ian’s birthplace as Upminster, underlining how readily he was identified with the wilds of Essex and a myth of his own making, alongside his cockney persona and underworld dabbling. But despite the minor biographical inaccuracy, all paid tribute to his remarkable lyrics and onstage magnetism and agreed it was a life lived to the full.
The Times 28 March 2000
Ian’s funeral took place on 5 April. ‘We’re gonna have it proper,’ Ian told his friend Jock Scot some weeks earlier. ‘I want the horses with the plumes and the glass-sided carriage.’ Ian got his wish and the traditional funeral cortege turned heads and stopped traffic as it made its way to Golders Green crematorium where the service was conducted by Annette Furley of the British Humanist Association. Mourners included Madness, Mo Mowlam and Robbie Williams.
Evening Standard 5 April 2000
That evening a wake, described on the invitation as an ‘after show party’, took place at the Forum in Kentish Town. Ian wanted ‘an Irish-style wake where everyone gets together and gets pissed.’ That was more-or-less the case, but it was a hugely emotional event with the Blockheads providing the music and guest vocalists including Wreckless Eric, Humphrey Ocean, Baxter Dury and Ronnie Carroll.
'After Show Party'
Read more in ‘Ian Dury: The Definitive Biography’ by Will Birch (Sidgwick & Jackson)