Well-known Irish folk singer, stuntman, John Corcoran, dies at age 72

John Corcoran applauds his son’s performance during a tribute concert in his honor at the Lynn Knights of Columbus on Sunday, Jan. 19, 2020. Joseph Prezioso/Photo 

PEABODY —  John Corcoran, a well-known North Shore Irish folk singer and children’s entertainer whose second career as a movie stuntman put him in such films as "The World According to Garp" and "Ragtime," died Friday at his home in Peabody at age 72 from complications related to throat cancer.

Corcoran was born in Lynn, the oldest of 15 children, and he lived in Peabody with his wife and three children for most of his life, building a robust career in the Irish music world, performing and recording with many of the genre’s most respected musicians.

Corcoran began performing at age 15. As a teen, he appeared at the Ballad Tree tent at the 1965 Newport Folk Festival. He later teamed with his brother Brian as The Corcoran Brothers. Together they built a national following. Corcoran later formed his own group, becoming a mainstay in Boston’s Irish pubs and at The Prince in Saugus, where he performed four-nights-a-week and hosted children shows on weekends.

He was known for his charming and rich singing voice, his heartfelt and relatable songwriting, and his humorous story-telling.

On Jan. 19, Corcoran was honored with a sold-out concert at the Lynn Knights of Columbus as dozens of musicians paid tribute to his career as an Irish folk singer, composer and children's entertainer for more than five decades.

In the 1970s and 1980s, he was a founding member of the movie stunt company, Stunt Specialists. He worked as a stunt man and actor in dozens of movies and television shows, including “The World According to Garp,” “Ragtime,” “Fort Apache the Bronx” and “The Cotton Club.” He was the stunt coordinator for several productions, include the soap opera “Ryan’s Hope,” and the Salem-based PBS production “Three Sovereigns For Sarah.”

In a recent interview, Corcoran told a story about how he used to jog with actor Robin Williams every morning to get him in shape during the filming of the 1982 motion picture, "The World According to Garp."

"He wasn't in shape," recalled Corcoran at his home in the South School neighborhood. "And it was cool," he said of being around Williams. "Any time we passed two people or more, he'd go into his schtick, and he would start all the language out of nowhere. He broke me up. It was very funny."

Corcoran was a 1965 graduate of St. Mary’s High School and a 1970 graduate of Emerson College, where he studied acting.

In November, the mayor of Lynn, Tom McGee, honored Corcoran with a citation, acknowledging his more than 50-year career, “bringing music and laughter to generations while representing the city of Lynn with distinction throughout the country.”

Among his immediate family, Corcoran leaves his wife, Frances, and three children: son Sean of Needham, son Shane of York, Maine, and daughter Erin Grocki of Marlborough.

A memorial scholarship has been created in his name that will support a student at St. Mary’s High School. Donations accepted online at https://www.stmaryslynn.com/give/give-online. Click “gift in honor of” and then type “John Corcoran.” Checks accepted at St. Mary’s High School, 35 Tremont St., Lynn, MA 01902. Write John Corcoran in the memo field.

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