Jim Aiken dies at his home in Belfast

Tributes have been pouring in, to one of the most important figures in the Irish music industry over the past fifty years, the concert promoter Jim Aiken, who died yesterday (free content)

Jim Aiken, one of the most important figures in Irish music over the past fifty years, died yesterday at his home in Belfast. Jim had not been well since just after Christmas, and was subsequently diagnosed with cancer, which was at an advanced stage. People in the music industry had recently been made aware of the illness, news of which had been greeted with a mixture of shock and deep sadness.

Originally from Jonesboro in Co. Armagh, Jim played county football for Armagh and had a life-long love of sport, and the GAA in particular. But it was as a promoter that he made an indelible mark on Ireland, as the country gradually metamorphosed from a rural backwater in the 1950s to its present status as one of the most vibrant and progressive countries in Europe.

Jim began to bring major stars to Ireland from the 1960s on, with Johnny Cash, Tom Jones, Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen and Simon and Garfunkel among those with whom he developed life-long working relationships. He promoted the Roilling Stones gig at Slane Castle in 1982 – a watershed event that was the beginning of the golden age of live music in Ireland. Other Slane Castle gigs promoted by Aiken Promotions included appearances by Dylan, Springsteen, David Bowie and Queen. More recently, he was also responsible for the gigs at Stormont Castle, with Rod Stewart and Elton John among the artists who played there.

He was also responsible for the U2 gigs at Croke Park in 1985 – the first event of that type to take place in the home of Gaelic football., wich began the opening up that culminated in the recent Ireland .v. England game there. Among the other major Irish acts promoted by Aiken Promotions were Westlife, who have always done their Belfast concerts under the Aiken Promotions banner, Van Morrison, Gilbert O’Sullivan at the height of his fame in the 1970s, The Chieftains, Planxty, Christy Moore, The Frames and many more.

Jim was also involved in radio. One of the original shareholders in Capital Radio, which was the first independent local radio to launch in 1988, he remained involved in what became FM104, until the station was sold to EMAP a number of years ago. He retained an interest in Red FM, the Cork youth station, in which Dermot Hanrahan (also ex-of FM104), Maurice Cassidy and Thomas Crosbie Media are also shareholders.

Expressions of sympathy and support have been flowing in since the news of Jim’s illness emerged. Political leaders from every side in Northern Ireland, including John Hume, Gerry Adams and Ian Paisley all paid personal tribute to Jim. The President Mary McAleese was also among those to pay their respects, while tributes have also been pouring in from the artists with whom he was associated as a promoter, including Bruce Springsteen, Elton John, Tom Jones, Adam Clayton of U2, members of Westlife and many more.

“Jim was a towering figure in Irish music,” Hot Press editor Niall Stokes said. “He was a pioneer, who brought great international music to Ireland, from the 60s on, right through the dark years, when the troubles were at their height in the North and up to the present day. He did all of those great Rory Gallagher Christmas tours, which were such a highlight of the 1970s, especially for people in Belfast – who were starved of music for so much of the time. It is doubly sad to think that both Jim and Rory – who were so committed to making the music happen, and who gave so much to it – have both passed away.

“It takes individuals who have the courage of their convictions to change the cultural landscape, and there is no doubt that Jim Aiken achieved that,” he added. “It is impossible to imagine that the remarkable developments that have taken place in Irish music over the past thirty years would have happened without the incredible contribution that he made. He was known throughout the business as a thoroughly decent, honourable, generous and incredibly down to earth man, who had no interest in the trappings of wealth. He leaves a remarkable legacy, of which his family can be enormously proud.”

Jim is survived by his wife Ann, his son Peter Aiken, who runs Aiken Promotions in Dublin, and his four daughters, their families and children. He will be greatly missed by everyone in the industry, not just in Ireland, but in Britain, the US and further afield.


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