Paddy Moloney – leader of the Chieftains

Paddy Moloney is a multi-talented musician who has achieved international acclaim and sold millions of albums with his band The Chieftains.

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The Chieftains impact on traditional Irish music cannot be overstated. Along with The Dubliners and The Clancy Brothers, they made Irish music accessible to a younger audience. But while The Dubliners and The Clancys concentrated mainly on songs, The Chieftains led the way in bringing back instrumental arrangements of classic melodies.

Moloney had an early interest in music

Paddy Moloney copyright Dean+Barb cc2

Paddy Moloney

Moloney was born in Dublin in 1938. He developed an interest in music from an early age thanks to the influence of his grandfather who played the flute and his uncle who played in the Ballyfin Pipe Band.

He started to learn the tin whistle when he was six and when he was eight he took up the uilleann pipes.

Founder member of the Chieftains

He was a founder member of the Chieftains in 1962, and the band developed a big following. This was a testament to their quality as there was not much call for traditional Irish music when they first started out.

Despite their success they continued their day jobs as it was a tough time for Ireland economically and they didn’t want to risk losing their job security.

In fact it was 13 years before they finally felt comfortable enough to go full time. They had won the Melody Maker Band of the Year award and performed to 25,000 people at the Cambridge Folk Festival. They finally felt confident that they could make a career from music.

International success with the Chieftains

Moloney released dozens of albums with the Chieftains and sold out prestigious venues such as London’s Albert hall. They were the first Westerners to perform at the Great Wall of China and also played in Berlin with Pink Floyd’s Roger Waters to celebrate the fall of the Berlin Wall.

They performed for the Pope when he visited Ireland in 1979. They also appeared on the Tonight Show in the US which helped to introduce them to millions of viewers. The band had famous fans including Bob Dylan, John Lennon and Paul McCartney.

Moloney’s Career away from the Chieftains

In 1959, Moloney set up the record label, Claddagh Records, which was to specialise in traditional Irish music and spoken word. Some top Irish artists have released music through Claddagh Records including Dolores Keane, Sean Keane, Derek Bell, the poet Seamus Heaney and of course The Chieftains.

John Lennon copyright Roy Kerwood cc2.5

John Lennon

Moloney worked as a producer at the record label and helped to create around 45 albums.

As well as being the main producer for the Chieftains, Moloney has released a number of solo albums.

Creating music for Hollywood movies

He has also been hired to create music for Hollywood films like Gangs of New York, Braveheart, Treasure Island and The Grey Fox. He once missed out on the chance to create music for the Stanley Kubrick movie, Barry Lyndon, as he hadn’t heard of the famous director.

Moloney said: “I hadn’t seen ‘A Clockwork Orange’ or any of his films, so I said, ‘Well that sounds great, Mr. Kubrick. Is there any chance you could call me back on Monday? I’m a little busy at the moment.’ And there was this fellow who was a journalist, standing there with his mouth open: ‘Don’t you know who you were talking to?’”

Working with music’s biggest stars

Some of the biggest names in music have wanted collaborate with Moloney and he has worked with the likes of Paul McCartney, Mick Jagger, Stevie Wonder, Mike Oldfield and Sting.

In 2012, Moloney was given an Ohtli award which is the highest cultural honour in Mexico for citizens from outside the country. He received the award for strengthening ties between Ireland and Mexico.

Paddy Moloney
Paddy Moloney Videos
Musicians main page

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