Dennis Sheehan, tour manager of Irish supergroup U2, dies aged 68

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Almost half a century ago, a teenage rock music lover decided it was time to trade his own dreams of playing in a band for something a little more solid.

So Dennis Sheehan decided to work behind the scenes, first helping little-known bands such as Jimmy James & the Vagabonds on their fledgling concert tours before moving on to assignments with bona fide rock stars such as Led Zeppelin, Patti Smith, Lou Reed, The Damned, Siouxsie and the Banshees and Soft Cell.

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FOR REGISTRATION

May 28, 8:04 a.m.: An earlier edition of this obituary identified U2 tour manager Dennis Sheehan as Irish. He was born in England and raised in Ireland.

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But for more than 30 years, Sheehan was best known as tour manager for Irish superstar band U2, for whom he had just kicked off a five-night adventure in Los Angeles before suffering an apparent heart attack early Wednesday in his hotel room. hotel in West Hollywood.

“We have lost a family member. We’re still figuring it out,” U2 lead singer Bono said in a statement posted on the band’s website on Wednesday. “He wasn’t just a legend in the music world, he was a legend in our band. He’s irreplaceable.

Sheehan, 68, was found dead in his bedroom by Los Angeles Sheriff’s deputies, who had responded to reports of someone not breathing. Craig Harvey, spokesman for the Los Angeles County Coroner’s Office, said Sheehan appeared to have died of natural causes. No autopsy is scheduled.

Paul McGuinness, U2’s manager throughout his career until his resignation in 2013, said Sheehan underwent heart bypass surgery in 2005 but continued to exercise regularly.

“He was a walker,” McGuinness told The Times from his London home on Wednesday. “He might have a glass of wine or a beer once in a while, but that would be it. He was a very clean person.

It is unknown if Sheehan’s death will impact the ongoing tour.

The UK Mirror on Wednesday quoted an unnamed source said to be “close to the group” as saying: “Everyone who works with the group is heartbroken. It came as a huge shock, but the view is that Dennis would have liked the show to go on. But that might be subject to change.

McGuinness, who remains close with the band and plans to travel to the United States to see the band when they reach Chicago for five shows from June 24, dismissed such an idea. “Of course the show will go on,” he said. “I can’t imagine that wouldn’t be the case.”

Still, he acknowledged that it would be hard on the band.

“It will be very difficult for them to find a way to work without Dennis because they have never worked without Dennis,” McGuinness said. “In living memory, there’s never been a U2 show that Dennis hasn’t been on.

Sheehan was born November 15, 1946 in Wolverhampton, England, grew up in the south of Ireland and met McGuinness in 1982. He had recently ended his stint with Led Zeppelin and shifted his focus from hard rock to music. punk-rock.

“I did 50-60% of the punk acts in England, which was a great learning curve,” Sheehan said in a 2013 interview. the year with Paul McGuinness. They were looking for a tour manager. They had released two albums and were about to release the ‘War’ album, and we haven’t looked back since.

McGuinness said Sheehan impressed him on that first encounter. “I will never forget: he arrived wearing a tie and a blazer. He was very formal and had very good manners. I hired him on the spot. We weren’t doing big tours at that time. It was like a van and a bus. … As U2’s touring got bigger and bigger over the years, it probably became the best in the world.

Sheehan headed U2’s touring juggernaut and oversaw some of the biggest tours in pop music history, from The Joshua Tree tour in 1987 to Zoo TV (1992-93), Pop Mart (1997- 98) and Elevation (2001) to Vertigo (2005-2006), 360 Tour (2009-2011) and the recently launched Innocence + Experience concert series.

The band’s tours consistently ranked at or near the top of the top-grossing tours every year the band was on the road. U2’s 360 Tour is ranked as the highest-grossing concert tour of all time, grossing nearly three-quarters of a billion dollars from 110 performances.

Sheehan has also helped with solo U2 projects, including arranging Bono’s appearance before Congress, where he testified in favor of increased aid to Africa. He said he was often called upon to do “little weird things,” like bringing band members into the White House for a performance for President Bill Clinton.

“I have to say I’ve never worked with such committed musicians and people like me with this band,” Sheehan told the Irish Voice in 2001. “Of course they’re my bosses and my employer, but that’s not why I’m saying that. I have one of the best jobs in the world. … No one works with or for U2 for very long if they’re not part of the ‘big family’, so to say.

In fact, the band members dressed up as Led Zeppelin at a birthday party for Sheehan due to the many stories he told about his days working with the legendary rock band.

In 2008, Sheehan received the Parnelli Lifetime Achievement Award, which recognizes “the highest achievement in concert production technology”.

“The band works incredibly hard and they go to great lengths to achieve what they want,” Sheehan said when he learned of the Parnelli Prize. “With a lot of bands, you get to a peak, and that’s it. With U2, they’re always climbing that mountain.

Information about Sheehan’s survivors was not immediately available.

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