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Paddy Moloney (1938–2021), Irish musician who co-founded and led the Chieftains

by Linnea Crowther

Paddy Moloney was an Irish musician who co-founded and led the Grammy-winning group the Chieftains.

Bringing traditional Irish music to the world

Moloney played the tin whistle and uilleann pipes since childhood, and in the 1950s, he began playing in groups. He co-founded the Chieftains in 1962, and the band began playing their traditional Irish music. By the early 1970s, they had become popular across the U.K., and their music began to gain an international audience. As the Chieftains spread the music of their homeland across the world, they won six Grammy awards and were named “Ireland’s Musical Ambassadors” by the Irish government in 1989. The Chieftains performed and recorded with a wide variety of musicians, including Van Morrison, Madonna, the Rolling Stones, Ziggy Marley, and many more.

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In addition to his work with the Chieftains, Moloney worked as a session musician, playing with Paul McCartney, Stevie Wonder, Sting, and others. He also wrote music for movies and TV shows including “Braveheart,” and he founded the record label Claddagh Records. Moloney once loaned his tin whistle to astronaut Cady Coleman, who played it aboard the International Space Station.

Notable quote

“[Y]ou don’t have to be Irish to listen to our Irish music or to watch the dancing, that sort of thing. Every nationality now, all over the world, from China even, like in ‘83 we played in China, and up in Norway and Finland and Iceland, and places like that. And not forgetting our neighbors next door, the UK, we’ve done many concerts and many tours there as well. So it hasn’t stopped, there’s something in the Irish music that really gets you, you know?” —from a 2020 interview with Barry Stapleton

Tributes to Paddy Moloney

Full obituary: Irish Examiner

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