Westlife Biography

This Irish boy band, originally known as Westside, emerged in the late 90s as the highly successful protégés of Ronan Keating of Boyzone. The three founding members, Kian Egan (Cian John Francis Egan, 29 April 1980, Sligo, County Sligo, Eire), Shane Filan (b. 5 July 1979, Sligo, County Sligo, Eire) and Mark Feehily (b. Marcus Michael Patrick Feehily, 28 May 1980, Sligo, County Sligo, Eire), came together in a local Sligo production of Grease. They formed IOYou with three fellow actors after friends encouraged them to continue singing, and began performing cover versions in local clubs. A demo tape of a track written by Filan and Feehily, ‘Together Girl Forever’, found its way to Boyzone manager Louis Walsh. Suitably impressed, Walsh hired them to support US boy band Backstreet Boys when they visited Dublin. A change of line-up ensued, with original members Derek Lacey, Graham Keighron and Michael Garrett making way for ex-soccer player Nicky Byrne (b. Nicholas Bernard James Adam Byrne, 9 October 1978, Dublin, Eire) and Brian McFadden (b. 12 April 1980, Artane, Dublin, Eire). Keating became involved with the band as co-manager in April 1998.

After a showcase appearance at London’s Café de Paris in February 1999, the band changed their name to Westlife after learning of the existence of several American acts performing as Westside. Groomed as natural successors to Boyzone, the quintet’s debut single ‘Swear It Again’, was a highly predictable Irish and UK chart-topper in May. The follow-up, ‘If I Let You Go’, repeated the feat when it entered the UK singles chart at number 1 in August. ‘Flying Without Wings’ made it three number 1s in a row in October. Their status as the most popular boy band of the moment was underlined when their lame double a-side, featuring cover versions of Abba’s ‘I Have A Dream’ and Terry Jacks’ ‘Seasons In The Sun’, topped the charts for four weeks over Christmas and the new year. They created UK chart history in April 2000 when ‘Fool Again’ became their fifth number 1 single in a row. Later in the year, the group’s duet with Mariah Carey on a cover version of Phil Collins’ ‘Against All Odds’, and ‘My Love’, became their sixth and seventh number ones respectively. Both singles featured on Coast To Coast, a virtual rewrite of their debut album. Their Christmas single ‘What Makes A Man’/‘My Girl’ was pipped to the coveted number 1 slot by children television’s character Bob The Builder.

Westlife bounced back to the top in March 2001 with their cover version of Billy Joel’s ‘Uptown Girl’, released for the Comic Relief charity. In November, the anodyne ‘Queen Of My Heart’ earned the group their ninth chart-topper. The quintet notched up their tenth number 1 in February 2002 with ‘World Of Our Own’. The catchy ‘Bop Bop Baby’ was a notable failure, only reaching number 5 in May. Normal service was resumed later in the year when ‘Unbreakable’ debuted at number 1. In November 2003, Westlife topped the UK singles chart for the twelfth time with a remake of Barry Manilow’s ‘Mandy’. Turnaround repeated the feat on the album chart.

In March 2004, McFadden announced he was leaving the band to spend more time with his family. His subsequent separation from former Atomic Kitten singer Kelly Katona kept the UK tabloid media occupied throughout the summer. During this period, McFadden worked with former Robbie Williams songwriter Guy Chambers on his solo debut, Irish Son. His former bandmates in Westlife carried on and recorded the dreadful ... Allow Us To Be Frank, a collection of classic swing material associated with Frank Sinatra. They regrouped in 2005 and, in November, celebrated their thirteenth UK chart-topper with ‘You Raise Me Up’, the lead single from their seventh studio album, Face To Face. Further success followed in 2006 with a cover version of the Bette Midler classic, ‘The Rose’, with the group becoming the third most successful number one singles artist in UK chart history in the process. The attendant The Love Album comprised cover versions of love songs, while the following year’s Back Home featured largely original material.

Source: The Encyclopedia of Popular Music by Colin Larkin. Licensed from Muze.

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