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Paddy Moloney, Leader Of Chieftains And Great Popularizer Of Celtic Folk, Dies

With his group, The Chieftains , he broke the boundaries of Celtic music by citing it with pop and rock without losing the essence, and scoring celebrated encounters with figures such as Van Morrison, the Rolling Stones, Ry Cooder, Joni Mitchell or Roger Daltrey. If Irish folk today occupies a prominent place on the map of global music, it is, to a certain extent, thanks to the long work, at the head of the group, of Paddy Moloney, the charismatic and jovial flute player and piper, who died this Tuesday. in Dublin, the city where he was born 83 years ago.

The wind instruments were his passion, although he also trained in the accordion and the bodhrán, the characteristic Irish tambourine. His has been a long moral leadership of the country’s traditional music, whose roots go back to the late 1950s, when he joined the folk group Ceoltóiri Chualann (‘the musicians of Chualann’, allusion to an area of ​​Dublin). From there he went on to create, in 1962, The Chieftains, a formation that made its way with a series of self-titled albums based on traditional pieces. The group signed for the fledgling Claddagh Records label, where Moloney enlisted as a producer.

Kubrick’s help
The Chieftains combined rigor, emotional power and a knack for putting audiences in your pocket with their vibrant concerts. In 1975, Celtic music was still a minority, but they made their way with their contribution to the soundtrack of Stanley Kubrick’s’ Barry Lyndon ‘, particularly in the adaptation of the instrumental theme’ Women of Ireland ‘ (also known as’ Mná na hÉireann ‘and what later The Christians would turn into the pop hit’ Words’). That same year, Moloney brought his bagpipe touch to Mike Oldfield’s ‘Ommadawn’ album.artist with whom he continued to collaborate in the future.

His name also appeared on albums by pop figures such as Paul McCartney (‘Tug of war’, 1982), Mick Jagger (‘Primitive cool’, 1987) or Elvis Costello (‘Mighty like a rose’, 1991). One of the most impressive scenes in The Chieftains was their performance before the Pope, on his visit to Ireland, in 1979, before a million people.

Paddy Moloney, third from left, with The Chieftains
Very committed to the mission of bringing Celtic music to the world, The Chieftains became in 1983 the first Western artists to perform on the Great Wall of China (hence a live record, ‘The Chieftains in China’), and five years later they joined forces with Van Morrison in the celebrated ‘Irish heartbeat’.

But their definitive commercial launch came in the 90s, with the publication of ‘The long black veil’ (1995), an album in which they played the duet card with guests such as the Stones, Mark Knopfler, Sting, Sinéad O ‘ Connor and Marianne Faithfull. In ‘Tears of stone’ (1999),Benefiting from the worldwide rise of Celtic music, they repeated the movement, this time entirely with female voices such as Joni Mitchell, The Corrs and Diana Krall.

Friend of Carlos Núñez
Moloney guided The Chieftains in that Celtic universe and beyond, building bridges with Galicia in ‘Santiago’ (1996), where Carlos Núñez and Kepa Junkera took part, musicians with whom he would share many other episodes, or approaching country in ‘Further down the old plank road ‘(2003), here by the hands of noble figures in the field such as Chet Atkins, Emmylou Harris or Rosanne Cash. With another illustrious figure, Ry Coorder, the group shared the substantial ‘San Patricio’ (2010), an album with border flavors to which, among others, Chavela Vargas, Lila Downs and Los Tigres del Norte signed up.

The Chieftains successively lost several historical members so far this century (Derek Bell in 2002; Martin Fay in 2012; Seán Potts in 2014; Ronnie McShane in 2017), and Moloney continued to lead the formation as the sole survivor of the fifth. original when in 2019, the group announced a farewell tour that was partially affected by covid-19.

That summer they performed in Barcelona, ​​a familiar square in their curriculum, as Carlos Núñez’s guests at the Pedralbes Festival. Now, with Moloney’s goodbye, two musicians, Kevin Conneff and Matt Molloy, who entered the line-up in 1976, remain at the helm of The Chieftains, leaving the group’s future in uncertain terrain.

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