Joey “The Lips” Fagan exits stage left as Commitments co stars pay tribute to a true gent

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Johnny Murphy, best known for his role as trumpet player Joey ‘The Lips’ Fagan in The Commitments, has died of respiratory failure in St James’s hospital this morning after a short illness. He was 72.

In a statement released today, his family said: “It is with great sadness that the family of John Murphy announce his passing. He died of respiratory failure in St. James’s hospital early Tuesday morning, 23rd February, after a short illness.

“His career spanning over 50 years began in Focus Theatre with the late Deirdre O’Connell and lead to work at the Abbey and Gate theatres and stages around the world.”

Glen Hansard, who also starred alongside Murphy in the adaptation of Roddy Doyle’s book, shared a tribute to his Twitter account saying, “The great Johnny Murphy, (Joey the Lips Fagan) passed yesterday.. A beautiful man, and a true gent. Bless you Johnny.”

Another Commitments co-star Maria Doyle Kennedy also paid tribute on Twitter writing simply, “Johnny Murphy. Gentleman.”

Director Alan Parker originally wanted Van Morrison to play Joey ‘The Lips’ Fagan. In the end he hired Johnny Murphy, an experienced stage actor but one with no experience of playing the trumpet. Murphy was the only member of the cast who didn’t do his own playing.

Murphy also starred in Into The West, Waiting for Godot and Angela’s Ashes.

Tributes for Murphy have been pouring in on Twitter with Love/Hate star Laurence Kinlan calling him a “gentleman” who “lit up our screens”.