Edward Neil Anthony Hannon (born 7 November 1970) is a Northern Irish singer and songwriter. He is the creator and front man of the chamber pop group The Divine Comedy, and is the band's sole constant member. Hannon wrote the theme tunes for the sitcoms Father Ted and The IT Crowd. He grew up in Fivemiletown Co.Tyrone and Attended Portora Royal School.
Early life and education
Hannon was born in Derry, Northern Ireland, the son of Brian Hannon, a Church of Ireland minister at the Diocese of Derry and Raphoe and later Bishop of Clogher. He spent some of his youth in Fivemiletown before moving with his family to Enniskillen, in County Fermanagh, in 1982. While there, he attended Portora Royal School.
Hannon is founder and mainstay of The Divine Comedy, a band who achieved their biggest commercial success in the mid to late 1990s with the albums Casanova (1996), A Short Album About Love (1997), and Fin de Siècle (1998). Hannon continues to release albums under The Divine Comedy name, the most recent being Foreverland (2016).
In 2000 he and Joby Talbot contributed four tracks for Ute Lemper's collaboration album, Punishing Kiss.
In 2004 he played alongside the Ulster Orchestra for the opening event of the Belfast Festival at Queen's. In 2005, he contributed vocals to his long-time collaborator Joby Talbot's soundtrack for the movie version of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.
In 2006 it was announced that Hannon was to lend his vocal ability to the Doctor Who soundtrack CD release, recording two songs — "Love Don't Roam" for the 2006 Christmas special, "The Runaway Bride", and a new version of "Song For Ten", originally used in 2005's "The Christmas Invasion". On 12 January 2007, The Guardian website's "Media Monkey" diary column reported that Doctor Who fans from the discussion forum on the fan website Outpost Gallifrey were attempting to organise mass downloads of the Hannon-sung "Love Don't Roam", which was available as a single release on the UK iTunes Store. This was in order to attempt to exploit the new UK singles chart download rules, and get the song featured in the Top 40 releases.
The same year Hannon added his writing and vocal talents to the Air album Pocket Symphony, released in the United States on 6 March 2007. He is featured on the track "Somewhere Between Waking and Sleeping", for which he wrote the lyrics. This song had been originally written for and sung by Charlotte Gainsbourg on her album, 5:55. Though it was not included in its 2006 European release, it was added as a bonus track for its American release on 24 April 2007.
Hannon won the 2007 Choice Music Prize for his 2006 album, Victory for the Comic Muse. It was announced the next day that he had left EMI by 'mutual consent'.
When the band Keane played at the O2 Arena in London in July, "A Bad Dream" was introduced by Hannon. He introduced it by reading the poem "An Irish Airman Foresees His Death" by W. B. Yeats, upon which the song is based.
He is credited with composing the theme music for the sitcoms Father Ted and The IT Crowd, the former theme composed for the show and later reworked into "Songs of Love", a track on The Divine Comedy's breakthrough album Casanova. Both shows were created or co-created by Graham Linehan. For the Father Ted episode, "A Song for Europe", Hannon co-wrote and sang "My Lovely Horse", the song Ted and Dougal enter in Eurosong (a parody of the Eurovision Song Contest). For the same episode, Hannon wrote "The Miracle Is Mine", the 'typical' Eurovision ballad sung by Ted's nemesis, Father Dick Byrne. A dream sequence in the episode shows Ted and Dougal in the song's pop video, with Hannon providing vocals. Hannon also wrote and performed "My Lovely Mayo Mammy", sung by Eoin McLove in the episode "Night of the Nearly Dead", and wrote "Big Men in Frocks", sung by Niamh Connolly in "Rock-a-Hula Ted". When a raffle is held in order to raise funds to repair the roof of the parochial house, the Kraftwerk-esque quartet of priests enlisted to perform play an electronic piece of music composed and performed by him. Both of the advertisements for telephone numbers; in The IT Crowd (the new emergency number) and Father Ted (Priest Chatback) have jingles composed by Hannon. In the episode "A Christmassy Ted", his name is mentioned by Mrs Doyle while she attempts to guess that of the mysterious guest.
A new Divine Comedy album, Bang Goes the Knighthood, was released in May 2010.
Hannon has also collaborated with Thomas Walsh, from the Irish band Pugwash, to create a cricket-themed pop album under the name The Duckworth Lewis Method. The first single, "The Age of Revolution", was released in June 2009, and a full-length album released the week after. The group's second album, Sticky Wickets, came out in 2013.
Hannon contributed to a musical version of Swallows and Amazons which premiered in December 2010 at the Bristol Old Vic.
In April 2012 Hannon's first opera commission, Sevastopol, was performed by the Royal Opera House. It was part of a program called OperaShots, which invites musicians not typically working within the opera medium to create an opera. Sevastopol was based upon Leo Tolstoy's Sevastopol Sketches. Hannon's second opera (book by Frank Alva Buecheler, English by Tim Clarke) for which he wrote music, In May, premiered in May 2013 in Lancaster and was shown 2014 with overwhelming success e.g. in Glasgow and Brighton.
The world premiere of "To Our Fathers in Distress", a piece for organ, was performed on 22 March 2014, in London, at the Royal Festival Hall. It was inspired by Hannon's father, Rt Rev Brian Hannon, who suffers from Alzheimer's.
Hannon's partner is Irish musician Cathy Davey. The couple live in the Dublin area. He was previously married to Orla Little, with whom he has a daughter, Willow. With Davey, Hannon is a patron of the Irish animal charity My Lovely Horse Rescue, named for the Father Ted Eurovision song he wrote the music for.
The Divine Comedy
- Fanfare for the Comic Muse – July 1990
- Liberation – August 1993
- Promenade – March 1994
- Casanova – April 1996
- A Short Album About Love – February 1997
- Fin de Siècle – August 1998
- A Secret History... The Best of the Divine Comedy – August 1999
- Regeneration – March 2001
- Absent Friends – March 2004
- Victory for the Comic Muse – June 2006
- Bang Goes the Knighthood – May 2010
- Foreverland – September 2016
- The Cake Sale (compilation) – "Aliens"
- Doctor Who: Original Television Soundtrack (compilation) – "Song for Ten" (performer)
- Doctor Who: Original Television Soundtrack (compilation) – "Love Don't Roam" (performer)
- Amélie (compilation) – "Les Jours tristes" (instrumental version) (co-writer)
- L'Absente by Yann Tiersen – "Les Jours tristes" (English version) (co-writer and performer)
- The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy Soundtrack (compilation) – "So Long and Thanks for All the Fish" (performer)
- Reload by Tom Jones – "All Mine" (as The Divine Comedy) (performer)
- Pocket Symphony by Air – "Somewhere Between Waking and Sleeping" (writer and performer)
- Songs from the Deep Forest by Duke Special – "Our Love Goes Deeper Than This" (performer)
- Hyacinths and Thistles by The 6ths – "The Dead Only Quickly" (singer)
- Eleven Modern Antiquities by Pugwash – "Take Me Away" (performer)
- Punishing Kiss by Ute Lemper – (multiple tracks) (performer and writer)
- Les piqûres d'araignée by Vincent Delerm – "Favourite Song" (duet track)
- A Mãe by Rodrigo Leão – "Cathy" (performer)
- God Help the Girl by God Help the Girl – "Perfection as a Hipster" Neil Hannon with Catherine Ireton (performer)
- "No Regrets" by Robbie Williams – backing vocals with Neil Tennant of Pet Shop Boys
- The Silent World of Hector Mann by Duke Special – "Wanda, Darling of the Jockey Club"