Oct 12, 2021: Paddy Moloney, Leader of the Chieftains—Obituary

Share This:

The Chieftains, with Paddy Moloney at center, via their Facebook page

Paddy Moloney, the founder and leader of the traditional Irish band the Chieftains for nearly six decades, died October 12, 2021, in a Dublin, Ireland hospital. The musician, who played Uilleann pipes and the tin whistle, was 83. The Irish Traditional Music Archive announced his passing noting, Moloney “made an enormous contribution to Irish traditional music, song and dance. Few people can lay claim to having the level of impact Paddy Moloney had on the vibrancy of traditional music throughout the world. What a wonderful musical legacy he has left us.”

The cause of death was not revealed. The band paid a brief tribute to their leader, writing, “The Chieftain’s family mourns the loss of our Paddy Moloney. Paddy had so much more music to share and stories to tell. We were lucky we had him for as long as we did.”

The Chieftains recorded dozens of albums and helped to popularize traditional Irish music around the world, earning six Grammy Awards. The band has performed with some of the biggest names across all genres of popular music including Mick Jagger, Tom Jones, Elvis Costello, Emmylou Harris, Jackson Browne, Van Morrison, Sting, and Willie Nelson. The band would often put their unique spin on a music staple.

Watch the Chieftains perform The Who’s “Behind Blue Eyes” with Roger Daltrey on The Tonight Show

From his official biography on the Chieftains’ website: Moloney was born Aug. 1, 1938, and grew up in Donnycarney in Dublin. His love of Irish music came from his parents and the music that surrounded him at home. His first instrument was a plastic tin whistle and by the age of eight, he was learning to play the Uilleann pipes from the great pipe master Leo Rowsome. It was when he heard Leon Rowsome, son of Leo, play his pipes in the Scoil Mhuire school band, that he began to beg his parents to have Leo make him his very first set.

After he left school, Moloney, always aware that he needed a nine-to-five job to support his musical hobby, took a job with Baxendales, a large building firm, where he worked in accounting. It was here he met his future wife, Rita O’Reilly.

Watch the Chieftains perform with Van Morrison

Moloney had a vision [for] a sound he wanted to create, a sound that had never been heard before. He knew it would take much experimentation with different combinations of instruments and so he formed several groups with other musicians in duets and trios. In particular he played with Seán Potts, Michael Tubridy and Sean Keane in various combinations who would all later become Chieftains.

But it was not until he had formed the original lineup for the Chieftains in 1962 that he finally achieved the sound that had eluded him, a sound created by his inspired choice of instruments, styles and players. It was only at this point that Paddy felt ready to give his group the title the Chieftains (a name which was inspired by the Irish poet John Montague) and confident enough to take his band into the studio to record the very first of many, award-winning albums. This recording came about at the invitation of his good friend, the Hon. Garech de Brun, for his record label Claddagh Records.

Listen to the Chieftains perform a Bob Dylan song

In 1968, having recorded a number of albums with the Chieftains, Moloney decided to leave Baxendales to work full-time in the music industry as the Managing Director of Claddagh Records for seven years. During this time he also produced, co-produced or supervised 45 albums for the label in folk, traditional, classical, poetry and spoken word recordings.

The Chieftains’ 1991 holiday album, The Bells of Dublin, featured collaborations with Elvis Costello, Jackson Browne, Marianne Faithfull, Rickie Lee Jones, Nanci Griffith, and many others. It was certified Gold by the RIAA.

Listen to the Chieftains perform with Costello on the album, The Bells of Dublin

Costello penned a tribute to Moloney which noted, in part: “My wife, Diana [Krall] and I both had our adventures with Paddy but his finest gift to us was in playing a set of tunes at our wedding with such joy and verve that a Musical Knight from Liverpool was seen to dance a nimble jig to the tune of Paddy’s tin whistle.

“It seems no time at all since we spent a beautiful evening around a supper table, telling tales, tall and otherwise. Of course, it is more time ago than one imagines and that time has turned out to be in much shorter supply than anyone could have dreamed. I will miss Paddy very much. We send our love and deepest condolence to Rita and to the family and all this great man’s many colleagues and friends.”

Related: Musicians we lost in 2021

Best Classic Bands Staff

No Comments so far

Jump into a conversation

No Comments Yet!

You can be the one to start a conversation.

Your data will be safe!Your e-mail address will not be published. Also other data will not be shared with third person.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.