One of the best Christmas songs of the past thirty years is "Fairytale of New York" by The Pogues featuring Kirsty MacColl. MacColl may not have been the first choice to sing female vocals, yet her duet with Pogues frontman Shane MacGowan produced a memorable ode to love and hope for a better future.
The following post was originally published on December 13, 2013:
On December 18, 2000, English singer–songwriter Kirsty MacColl died under mysterious circumstances while vacationing with her family in Mexico.
While scuba diving off the coast of Cozumel with her two sons, MacColl was hit and killed by a speedboat that entered illegally into a swimming-only area. The scuba instructor working with the group, Ivan Diaz, claimed that her final gesture was to save the life of one of her sons by pushing him away from the path of the boat.
Mexican business tycoon Guillermo González Nova owned the boat involved in the incident and he was on board the vessel with his family. Crewmember José Cen Yam confessed that he drove the boat and his only punishment was to pay a small putative fine. Yet MacColl's family and her supporters believed that Cen Yam took the blame for his boss and Nova covered up the true circumstances of the accident. (They claimed that witnesses including Diaz saw Nova admit to police that he was driving the speedboat while Yam “drunkenly” said that Nova promised him money and a house in exchange for lying to the authorities).
The tragedy snuffed out the life of a gifted musician who was best known for having her debut solo single "They Don't Know" covered by Tracey Ullman, singing backing vocals on several songs from The Smiths and collaborating with Shane MacGowan in the holiday classic “Fairytale of New York.” Yet at the time of her untimely death she was scheduled to present a series on Cuban music for BBC radio, which she recorded in Havana and included interviews with the Buena Vista Social Club and Ry Cooder. Throughout her career she dabbled with Latin-themed tunes in her songs such as “In These Shoes” and “Us Amazonians” from her final album, Tropical Brainstorm. [Ed. - MacColl's love for Latin music can be seen in a portion of this 2001 documentary.]
Below the page break is the video from 1991’s “My Affair”, an upbeat song described by The A.V. Club as a “simple cure” to overcome the sadness one may feel from her untimely death: