Dolores Keane is a singer and actress who first made her name with folk superstars, De Dannan in the 1970s.
She went on to have huge success as a solo artist and was described by American singer, Nancy Griffith as the ‘Queen of the Soul of Ireland’.
Raised by sean-nós singing aunts
Keane was born in Sylane, Co Galway. When she was four she went to live with her aunts Sarah and Rita Keane who were well known sean-nós singers.
Her aunts’ musical influence quickly rubbed off on her and she had already made her first radio recording by the time she was five.
Founder Member of De Dannan
In 1975, Keane became a founder member of the traditional Irish folk band De Dannan. The band’s eponymous debut album was released that same year. They had a huge hit with the single, ‘The Rambling Irishman’ in 1977 and by the late 1970s they had begun to enjoy success on both sides of the Atlantic.
Keane spent much of her time touring with the De Dannan but left the band shortly after the release of ‘The Rambling Irishman’ so she could get married to her musician partner, John Faulkner.
In the mid 1980s, Keane rejoined De Dannan and recorded two more albums, ‘Anthem’ and ‘Ballroom’.
Towards the end of the 1990s, Keane was again briefly reunited with the band for a tour of the USA.
Success as a solo artist
Keane moved to England with her husband and released a solo album, ‘There Was a Maid’ in 1978. Much of the music for the album was recorded by Reel Union, a traditional band that included Peader Mercier of The Chieftains.
She and her husband followed it up with two albums in 1979-80, ‘Broken Hearted I’ll Wonder’ and ‘Farewell to Eireann’
In 1988, after briefly rejoining De Dannan, she released another solo album simply titled ‘Dolores Keane’.
Nelson Mandela – Lion in a Cage
The following year she had her second number one single in Ireland with the song ‘Lion in a Cage’. It was written by her husband about Nelson Mandela’s imprisonment. The song was taken from her third solo album, also called ‘Lion in a Cage’.
She performed the song at the celebration of his release in 1990.
In 1992, Keane was one of a number of Irish female singers who recorded songs for ‘A Woman’s Heart’ which became the biggest selling album in Irish history. Keane contributed two tracks; ‘Caledonia’ and ‘Island’.
In 1994, Keane released another solo album, ‘Solid Ground’. The following year she was given the Fiddler’s Green Hall of Fame award for her significant contribution to Irish music and culture.
In 1998, she released her fifth album, ‘Night Owl’ which was a big success in both Europe and America.
Appearing on TV and acting on stage
Keane has written music for BBC television and scores for movies. She also appeared in documentaries for the BBC alongside her husband.
She has also turned her hand to acting and played the lead in the Dublin production of Brendan Behan’s ‘The Hostage’.
In 1995 she took part in the Dublin production of ‘Playboy of the Western World’. She also appeared on the RTÉ/BBC television series ‘Bringing it all Back Home. The series explored how Irish music had become so popular in America. Keane performed concerts for the show in both Ireland and America.