Mary Coughlans troubled upbringing manifested itself in an erratic career path, including stints as a model and a street-sweeper. She began her singing career in 1984 working with Dutch musician Erik Visser (who became her long-term collaborator).
The following year she made an acclaimed appearance on the Late Late Show and recorded her first album which showcased her powerful and bluesy jazz stylings and became an unexpected bestseller in her native Ireland. Despite her ongoing personal problems Coughlan continued to reap praise for her recorded output on WEA Records. On Under The Influence she revived the 1948 Peggy Lee hit Don't Smoke In Bed and the Billie Holiday ballad Good Morning Heartache as well as Jimmy McCarthy's Ride On which reached number 5 on the Irish pop charts in 1987.
Coughlan began straightening her personal life out in the mid-1990s and signed a new recording contract with Big Cat Records. The label issued an excellent live set and her United States debut After The Fall. In June 2000 Coughlan presented a series of multimedia shows in Dublin celebrating Billie Holiday a singer whose life story has close parallels to Coughlans own. The best of these shows was collected on the wonderful Sings Billie Holiday. A new studio album was released the following April.
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