Paddy Moloney passed away yesterday, October 11, it has been confirmed. The legendary Irish musician, one of the founders of The Chieftains, was 83 years old.
Moloney, a native of Donnycarney in north Co Dublin, took up Irish music at a young age, first playing a plastic tin whistle before beginning to learn the uilleann pipes from pipe master, Leo Rowsome.
After playing alongside Seán Ó Riada in his group Ceoltóirí Chualann, Moloney founded The Chieftains in Dublin in 1962 with Seán Potts (tin whistle), Martin Fay (fiddle), David Fallon (bodhrán), and Mick Tubridy (flute). The group would go on to win six Grammy awards and become one of Ireland’s most famous musical acts.
In 1968, Moloney left his job at the building firm Baxendales to work full time in the music industry as the Managing Director of Claddagh Records, where The Chieftains recorded their first album. Moloney ran the label for seven years until 1975.
During his time at Claddagh Records, Molony also produced, co-produced, or supervised 45 albums for the label in folk, traditional, classical, poetry, and spoken word recordings
Throughout the band’s career, The Chieftains collaborated with a number of famous musicians, including Sting, Willie Nelson, The Rolling Stones, Paul McCartney, Stevie Wonder, and Sinead O’Connor.
In 1979, The Chieftains performed to an audience of more than 1.3 million during Pope John Paul II’s visit to Ireland, and in 2011, they performed during Queen Elizabeth’s historic visit to Ireland.
Among their most notable endeavors outside of Ireland, The Chieftains were the first Western musicians to perform on the Great Wall of China in 1983, participated in Roger Water’s “The Wall” performance in Berlin in 1990, and were the first ensemble to perform a concert in the Capitol Building in Washington, DC. In October 2001, Moloney traveled to New York City to perform at Ground Zero after the 9/11 attacks.
In 2010, Paddy Moloney’s whistle and Matt Molloy’s flute traveled with NASA astronaut Cady Coleman to the international space station. In 2012, The Chieftains performed "Moondance" live in Houston, Texas with Canadian Astronaut Chris Hadfield, who played with the group from onboard the International Space Station:
Marking their 50th anniversary in 2012, The Chieftains were awarded the inaugural National Concert Hall Lifetime Achievement Award at a gala event in Philadelphia hosted by The American Ireland Fund “in recognition of their tremendous contribution to the music industry worldwide and the promotion of the best of Irish culture.”
More recently, US President Joe Biden named The Chieftains as his "favorite band."
Tributes to Moloney, who was married to Rita O'Reilly and has three children, Aonghus Moloney, Padraig Moloney, and actress-producer Aedin Moloney, have begun to pour in from Ireland's music and culture groups, as well as top politicians.
Claddagh Records hailed Moloney as a "force of nature:"
The Directors and staff of Claddagh Records wish to offer their sincerest sympathy to the family of the late Paddy Moloney.
A force of nature, the likes this world had never seen before. Rest in Peace Paddy pic.twitter.com/NzZXXGjMbo— Claddagh Records (@CladdaghRecords) October 12, 2021
The Irish Traditional Music Archive (ITMA) said that Moloney leaves behind "a wonderful musical legacy:"
During a recent interview in ITMA, he spoke about the people & events that shaped his life in music. 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.— ITMA (@ITMADublin) October 12, 2021
Na Píobairí Uilleann (NPU, the Society of Irish Pipers) paid tribute to Moloney. NPU chief executive Gay McKeon said that Moloney "played a leading role in the foundation of NPU in 1968 and helped imbue the new organisation with great confidence through his music and his work as a commercial artist. He helped influence a new generation to take up the instrument and play Irish music.
“We have lost one of the country’s foremost artists whose legacy is inestimable at this point."
In a statement, President of Ireland Michael D. Higgins noted that Moloney was at the "forefront of the renaissance of interest in Irish music, bringing a greater appreciation of Irish music and culture internationally."
Statement from President Michael D. Higgins on the death of Paddy Moloney.
"Paddy, with his extraordinary skills as an instrumentalist, was at the forefront of the renaissance of interest in Irish music..." https://t.co/E5iOlU7GoP— President of Ireland (@PresidentIRL) October 12, 2021
Describing Moloney as a “legend,” Taoiseach Micheál Martin thanked him for his “massive contribution to the life of our nation:”
So sad to hear of the passing of Paddy Moloney. The term ‘legend’ is regularly overused, but hard to think of any other way to describe this giant of Irish music and culture.— Micheál Martin (@MichealMartinTD) October 12, 2021
GRMA Paddy for your massive contribution to the life of our nation. RIP.
Jon Williams of RTÉ said that RTÉOne will air “The Irish Goodbye” at 7 pm tomorrow, October 13, to mark Moloney’s passing:
In February 2020, @RTENationwide followed #PaddyMoloney & @thechieftains on what would be their final tour. Tomorrow - to mark Paddy’s passing - we’ll repeat “The Irish Goodbye” at 7pm @RTEOne. Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam.pic.twitter.com/vwADp0Ubql— Jon Williams (@WilliamsJon) October 12, 2021
You can check out more music from The Chieftains here on Spotify: