Music

'The lowest time was at the peak of my career' – Mary Black opens up about her battle with depression

Mary Black has opened up for the first time on how she was suffering from deep depression at the height of her fame.

She turned into a national treasure over the decades as the Dubliner, with the voice of an angel, became a household name without succumbing to any of the trappings of fame.

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In a deeply personal RTE documentary, her down-to-earth nature is epitomised as she tells how she refused to wear a starry outfit for the first of her five sold-out appearances at the Royal Albert Hall, London, in 1992: “I just wore a jacket from Penneys and shortish skirt with tights and I was happy with that, I was comfortable.”

She said she was so happy to have her mother at her side when she played at the famous venue: “I was delighted she was there, it was very emotional.”

Her famous son, Danny O’Reilly, from The Coronas, eschewed his mother’s music for The Cranberries and Oasis as an awkward teenager but now fully appreciates her dazzling career.

He said: “It has changed as I got older, I can appreciate how much of a legend she is and how amazing it is what she has achieved.

“She’s such a humble, normal person as well. There is never any talk of legacy, that would not go down well in our house.”

The documentary, Mary Black – No Frontiers, tells of her happy, music-filled childhood in Charlemont Street in Dublin’s inner city.

“We weren’t hungry poor, but we didn’t have much, we lived in two rooms in a tenement house, there was a lot of poverty around, it made me think that I was wealthy by comparison,” she recalls. She also describes the sacrifices she had to make to become one of the biggest-selling female artists in Ireland in the 1980s.

“I was never hugely ambitious to be world famous, which I never was, but I had a following that I was very happy with and I built on that.”

But she described being very torn at the height of her fame, when she had to often leave her children at home with her husband and manager, Joe O’Reilly.

She remembered leaving to go on a three-week tour of America with Dolores Keane, who was also a new mother, when her son Danny was just eight weeks old.

“It was really hard. Dolores and I used to share a room and one night I sat up on the bed and she said ‘what is it?’, I said I can’t see Danny’s face, I can’t see my baby’s face and I was crying.

“It was a horrible feeling.”

The mother-of-three also opens up for the first time about bouts of depression she has endured over the years. “I am blessed by so many things, but people don’t really know what is going on in someone else’s life. I haven’t had too many bouts of depression but it has always more or less been there. One of my lowest times in my life, from a depression point of view, was when I was at the highest point in my career, in my life generally.

“It’s funny to be on your knees at a time like that, when actually your life is going exactly the way you would hope it to go, but it’s nothing to do with any of that. I have had little moments of it but it doesn’t eat into me any more. It makes you appreciate the good times as well.”

Mary says she still enjoys singing and loves watching her son, Danny, in The Coronas and her daughter, Roisin O, on stage.

‘Mary Black – No Frontiers’, RTE One, tomorrow, 9.35pm.

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