The Chieftains have probably collaborated with more musicians than any other band over the last 30 years.
They have worked with rock and pop stars, opera singers, classical musicians and other folk artists.
A favour from The Beatles
In 1969, The Chieftains wanted to get into Abbey Road studios to finish off some work but found it was booked solid by The Beatles who were recording their final album, Abbey Road.
Moloney asked if there was any chance of getting in for just a few hours and The Beatles readily agreed to give them half a day.
Paul McCartney and John Lennon called in on the session to say hello. Later, when McCartney was producing an album for The Scaffold, he asked Moloney to play on it.
Irish Heartbeat with Van Morrison
In 1986, The Chieftains teamed up with Van Morrison to record an album called Irish Heartbeat. It fused Morrison’s rock and pop music style with traditional Irish music.
One of the songs on the album was Raglan Road, which can be sung in free form, which gives the singer plenty of scope to go his own way. Morrison made the most of that freedom which made it hard for the band to follow him and end the song in unison.
In the end, Moloney just asked him to give them a nod when he was coming to the end and they just about got there.
Irish Heartbeat remains one of the band’s most popular albums and was nominated for a Grammy Award in the Ethnic Recording category.
The Bells of Dublin turn to gold
The Bells of Dublin became the first Chiefains album to go gold after it was released in 1991.
It featured the American singers Jackson Browne, Elvis Costello, Nanci Griffith, Burgess Meredith, Ricki Lee Jones and the English vocalist Marianne Faithfull among others.
It remains one of their most popular albums today.
Tears of Stone – ‘the women’s album’
Paddy Moloney sometimes refers to Tears of Stone as the women’s album because it has so many women vocalists on it. Joni Mitchell sang a song called The Madalene Laundries, which related to Dublin.
Mary Chapin Carpenter and Bonnie Rait also featured on the album singing songs in Irish.
The Long Black Veil – their best selling album
The Long Black Veil was the other Chieftains album to go gold in the US and it still remains the best selling of all their records.
It featured The Rolling Stones who performed The Rocky Road to Dublin. Keith Richards had a little trouble getting the hang of the slip jig timing but otherwise everything went well.
The recording and the socialising went on to the early hours of the morning and once the Rolling Stones got going with the tune, they wouldn’t stop. If you listen carefully to the track you will see that there is mechanical fade out rather than the clean end you would normally associate The Chieftains.
Moloney says that afterwards, when The Chieftains performed the song in concert, he inserted a little riff from ‘Satisfaction’ in honour of the Stones.
Sting performed a song in Gaelic
Sting also featured and sang a song in Gaelic called Mo Ghile Mear. Mick Jagger sang The Long Black Veil, Mark Knopfler sang The Lily of the West, Ry Cooder sang Dunmore Lassies and Tom Jones sang Tennessee Waltz/Tennesse Mazurka.
The association with such successful rock stars brought The Chieftains to a much wider audience and helped to boost their record sales.
The band also won a Grammy Award for the track, Have I Told You Lately That I Love You, which featured Van Morrison on vocals.
Irish bluegrass Down The Old Plank Road
This was an attempt by The Chieftains to reunite Irish music with one of its distant cousins doing very well in America, bluegrass music. Moloney refers to this as the “bluegrass, greengrass” collaboration.
This brought them into contact with some of America’s finest bluegrass and country music performers such as John Hiatt, Earl Scruggs, Lyle Lovett and Ricky Skaggs.
Roger Daltrey on an Irish Evening
Roger Daltrey sang a very muscular version of Raglan Road on the album An Irish Evening, which also featured Nanci Griffith. The Chieftains also performed on A Celebration: The Music of Pete Townshend and the Who, an album and video which Daltrey produced.
Performing at Elvis Costello’s wedding reception
Lots of people like to hire an Irish band for their wedding reception but not many get someone of the stature of The Chieftains to turn up.
The band performed at the request of Costello’s wife, Diana Krall. The wedding was held at the home of Sir Elton John and was a very lavish affair. Paul McCartney was one of the guests and danced a jig or two as The Chieftains played.