Rod Stewart says BBC stopped him singing ‘controversial’ Irish love song

Rod Stewart

Guest writer, Nick Sinnott

Rod Stewart has revealed that the British broadcaster, the BBC, wouldn’t let him sing the Irish love song, Grace, because they considered it too controversial.

The BBC have denied there was any ban.

Stewart made the claim while speaking about his new album, Blood Red Roses, with BBC Radio 2 presenter Chris Evans. The album contains several new songs but also features a version of Grace, telling the story of Grace Gifford and her brief marriage to one of the leaders of the 1916 Easter Rising.

Rod Stewart

The couple were married in Kilmainham Jail just minutes before Joseph Plunkett was taken out to be executed. Gifford never married again.

Billboard magazine quotes Stewart saying he wanted to sing the song live, together his seventies hit, The Killing of Georgie, on a BBC radio show but was told that wasn’t allowed.

Interested in discovering more about your Irish roots? This free online genealogy course with Strathclyde University shows you how to trace your family tree and also covers the use of DNA testing in genealogical research.

He said: “I asked if I could do “The Killing of Georgie,” which, as you know, is about a homosexual friend of mine. I thought it would be OK now because they banned it when it first came out. And I asked if I could sing it and they said no, it was too controversial. This was 1976 and now we’re in 2018. Unbelievable.

“Also, they won’t let me sing “Grace” because of its Irish, anti-English overtones in the song. Forget about it, it’s one of the greatest love songs ever written. The guy goes to his death 15 minutes the next morning after he’s been married, and I can’t sing that one either.”

Grace was written by Sean and Frank O’Meara in 1985 and made popular by singers like Jim McCann and the Wolfe Tones. It was quickly adopted as an anthem by fans of Glasgow Celtic football club, who are largely Catholic and descended from Irish immigrants to Scotland.

Stewart told Billboard: “Celtic is the football team I support, and Celtic was formed by an Irishman in Glasgow in 1888 to raise money for the Irish to come over after the Potato Famine, so I heard the Celtic supporters singing it about three years ago.”

He added that he went to Ireland to research the song and its background in the Easter Rising: “I went over to Dublin and did my homework. I visited the jail and went into the chapel where it all happened, so it means a lot to me, that one, it really does.

“There was no furniture in the jail apart from the bed, no table, no bed, no chair, nothing. Just sat on the floor, and the glass that was there when I visited wasn’t there in those days, so the wind and the snow came straight into the cell. Man’s inhumanity to man never ceases to astonish me.”

However, the BBC have denied that Stewart wasn’t allowed to sing the song. A spokesman said: “This story is categorically untrue. No songs are banned on the BBC. All songs performed live on the BBC Radio 2 Breakfast Show are agreed with the artist.”

Find out more about the story of Joseph Plunkett and Grace Gifford.

Interested in discovering more about your Irish roots? This free online genealogy course with Strathclyde University shows you how to trace your family tree and also covers the use of DNA testing in genealogical research.

Take a look at this video of the song Grace – performed by the great Jim McCann.

Did you know?

Christabel Burton was an incredible Anglo-Irish woman who outsmarted Nazi interrogators to help free her husband from a concentration camp prison. Find out more.