Normally, she sings sentimental songs of love and loss. "Three times you
said it's over/Two times you said goodbye/ But once you said you loved me/
Was that a lie?" is the chorus of a typical Frances Black number.
So it was very surprising to see her standing in Milltown Cemetery on
Tuesday belting out The Bold Fenian Men at Joe Cahill's funeral.
Frances looked mournful but glam in a well-cut black coat. Her presence has
passed unremarked. Remember the fuss when Gazza mimed playing the flute at
an Old Firm game?
It's amazing how many singers, film stars, and even the odd Taoiseach are
found in Sinn Féin company these days.
In the old days, the Provos had to make do with Christy Moore. Unionists
dislike Moore but at least he nailed his colours to the mast when it wasn't
fashionable. He recorded songs written by Bobby Sands, though he got itchy
feet after the Enniskillen bombing and kept his head down for years.
Frances, to my knowledge, has never recorded a controversial number in her
life. Playing at the West Belfast festival has been the height of it.
Clearly it's no longer career suicide to dedicate militaristic songs to
former IRA chiefs-of-staff.
The black berets and trousers of the marching men are substantially smarter
than in scruffier, pre-1994 times and so don't make an embarrassing
back-drop for a leading folk-singer.
And there was never any chance on Tuesday of those nasty men with woolly
faces firing a few shots in the air and poor Frances finding herself in a
compromising situation or even a police cell.
Strangely, no artistes want to flirt with the UDA, Real IRA or LVF - who
combined haven't killed nearly as many people as the Provos. Whatever the
aftershave Gerry and the boys are wearing, it certainly does the trick.