“Enchanting,” “Irresistible,” and “Charming,” are but three words out of many that describe Ireland’s most acclaimed performer, Tommy Sands. County Down’s singer and songwriter, Sands has achieved something akin to legendary status in his own lifetime. A rare combination of storyteller, author, singer, songwriter and social activist, Sands’ reviews come from politicians and major authors as well as fellow musicians and music reviewers. Sands has become an integral part of the Irish folk music revival and a one of a kind North Ireland native, whose music is often found to speak louder than violence.
Since his pioneering days with the Sands Family, who brought Irish Music from New York’s Carnegie Hall to Moscow’s Olympic Stadium, Sands has developed into one of the most powerful songwriters and captivating solo performers in Ireland. His song writing, which draws the admiration of Nobel Poet Laureate Seamus Heaney and father of folk music, Pete Seeger, prompts respected US magazine “Sing Out” to regard him as “the most powerful songwriter in Ireland, if not the rest of the world.” Although the author of music masterful enough to reach a global stage, Sands’ work carries a special focus: to reach the people in his own country and affect the world. Songs including, “There were Roses,” and “Daughters and Sons,” covered by Joan Baez, Kathy Matthea, Dolores Keane, Sean Keane, Frank Patterson, Dick Gaughan, The Dubliners and many others, have certainly attracted the desired audience, and then some.
Sands, “It would take a mean bastard to dislike him”, according to Eamon McCann in Hot Press, has a way with words to charm and disarm and coax a chorus out of the tightest jawed audience.
In May 2002 Tommy Sands received an honorary doctorate of Letters from The University of Nevada for his outstanding work as musician and ambassador for peace and understanding and, May 18th was pronounced “Tommy Sands Day in Reno”.
In December 2002 although the Northern Ireland Assembly had been stood down, Sands managed to persuade the Members to return for a special Christmas musical party together. As one political after another joined him on stage for a song, Loyalist leader David Ervine was heard to remark, “Tommy Sands is the only man, without a private army, who can intimidate me.”