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Kirsty MacColl: An Unconventional Christmas

Getty Images / Redferns / Fin Costello

Kirsty MacColl: An Unconventional Christmas

English singer-songwriter Kirsty MacColl's career was cut tragically short 13 years ago today, silencing one of pop music's most unique voices.

MacColl had several hits, including her top 10 single "They Don't Know," recorded in 1979. Throughout the 1980s, legal problems with her record label kept MacColl from recording her own albums, but she found steady work as a session musician, providing vocals for groups such as The Smiths, Robert Plant, and The Pogues.

Her collaboration with The Pogues led to one of her most enduring performances on 1987's beloved 'anti-carol,' "Fairytale of New York." The song chronicles a Christmas shared by two down-and-out New Yorkers. MacColl and lead vocalist Shane MacGowan trade verses and lines throughout the song, evoking the beauty of Christmas in New York City as well as the crushing realities of life there for some of its least fortunate residents.

The song was a huge hit in Ireland and the UK, and continues to climb the charts each Christmas. In America, it is a perennial on lists of favorite Christmas music, beloved for its cathartic lyrics and lush instrumentation.

The Pogues still play "Fairytale of New York" in concert, unfortunately without MacColl's distinctive voice. She died in 2000 at age 41 after being hit by a speedboat while on vacation in Mexico. MacColl had pushed her teenage son out of the boat's way before being hit.