Well-loved musician and songwriter Bap Kennedy passed away on Tuesday 1st November 2016. The 54-year-old, West Belfast native had been battling pancreatic and bowel cancer.

Bap Kennedy

Kennedy had received his diagnosis in May this year. In recent weeks, he had been receiving palliative care at the Marie Curie Hospice.

A statement issues through the singer’s social media channels said:

We are devastated to announce that Bap passed away this evening. Bap was extremely brave until the end. We would like to thank everybody for their kind messages of support over the past few months, these meant a lot to Bap and Brenda and helped Bap stay positive throughout his illness. We are also extremely grateful to all the staff at the Marie Curie hospice for their kindness and warmheartedness during his stay.

Bap was an influence and inspiration to many musicians, both local to Belfast and across the world. Born Martin Christopher Kennedy in June 1962, Bap grew up through the worst of Northern Ireland’s troubles. He received his nickname from friends picking up on the famous “Belfast Bap” made by Kennedy’s bakery.

Kennedy rose to prominence in the band Energy Orchard in the late 80s and early 90s in Belfast. Throughout his career, he collaborated with some other legends of the songwriting world. Steve Earle, Van Morrison, Shane MacGowan and Mark Knopfler were counted amongst his friends.

He was still gigging and recording when diagnosed with cancer in May this year. Along with his wife Brenda, he chronicled his treatment in a moving blog. This allowed him to keep in touch with thousands of fans as well-wishes came from across the globe.

He wrote:

I didn’t know how many people have been touched by my songs. It’s breaking my heart to find out now when I have so little time to do anything about it – but I am also very happy to feel the achievement. It’s what I always wanted. Not money. Not fame. I always wanted people to feel what I feel. The magic of music.

Bap is the elder brother of singer-songwriter Brian Kennedy who is currently undergoing treatment for rectal cancer. He revealed that battling illness brought the brothers closer together in recent months.

At Folk and Tumble, we were privileged to witness Bap Kennedy at his best. Whether on the small stage of Belfast’s Limelight or in a festival setting with the Mighty Horslips, the performances were honest, emotional, and memorable. His music as a solo artist and with Energy Orchard will live on.

More than that, his influence and inspiration will continue to shape a new generation of writers; not just in Belfast but beyond.