seamus dubhghaill

Promoting Irish Culture and History from Little Rock, Arkansas, USA


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Birth of Maura O’Connell, Singer & Actress

maura-oconnellMaura O’Connell, singer and actress known for her contemporary interpretations of Irish traditional music, strongly influenced by American country music, is born on September 16, 1958 in Ennis, County Clare.

Born into a musical family, O’Connell is the third of four sisters. Her mother’s family owns Costello’s fish shop in Ennis where O’Connell works until music becomes her full-time career. She grows up listening to her mother’s light opera, opera, and parlour music records. Her father’s interest leans towards the rebel ballads. Despite the presence of classical music in the house, O’Connell gets very involved in the local folk club scene and together with Mike Hanrahan, who later fronts folk rock outfit Stockton’s Wing, they perform a country music set, as a duo called “Tumbleweed.”

O’Connell attends St. Joseph’s Secondary School in Spanish Point from 1971 to 1974, where she takes part in the school choir. She is also a member of the “Cúl Aodha Choir”, led by Peader Ó Riada, that sings at the funeral of Willie Clancy in 1973.

O’Connell begins her professional musical journey during a six-week tour of the United States in 1980, as vocalist for the traditionally-based Celtic group De Dannan. The following year, she is featured on the band’s landmark album, The Star Spangled Molly, which becomes something of a national phenomenon in her homeland. However, not long after joining the group she becomes very interested in the experimental roots music of America’s New Grass Revival when the bands’ paths cross. She moves to the United States in 1986, settling in Nashville, Tennessee. There she meets progressive bluegrass pioneers Béla Fleck and Jerry Douglas, with whom she works on most of her records.

O’Connell records her first solo album in 1983, however, it does not make any impact in Ireland or in the United States. She receives a Grammy Award nomination for her 1989 album, Helpless Heart, which is her first record released under Warner Bros. Records. Real Life Story (1990) and Blue is the Colour of Hope (1992) register a move toward a pop synthesis. Her versions of “Living in These Troubled Times” and Cheryl Wheeler‘s “Summerfly” become standout tracks on the 1993 album A Woman’s Heart, on four all-female overseas tours and on the 1994 follow-up album in her homeland. A Woman’s Heart Vol. 2 features her heartfelt renditions of Nanci Griffith‘s “Trouble in the Fields” and Gerry O’Beirne’s “Western Highway.” After numerous albums heavily inspired by American newgrass music, she returns to her Irish roots with the 1997 release Wandering Home.

As the new millennium approaches, O’Connell signs with Sugar Hill Records in late 2000 and begins working on her seventh album. Instead of working with her longtime producer Jerry Douglas, she has Ray Kennedy produce Walls and Windows, which is released in 2001, and features an eclectic collection of songs, including work by Kim Richey, Van Morrison, John Prine, Eric Clapton and Patty Griffin. Her 2004 album, Don’t I Know, contains musical textures added by everything from fiddles, to clavinets, to lap steel guitar and B-3 organ.

Naked With Friends (2009) is O’Connell’s first a cappella album. Guest vocalists include Mary Black, Paul Brady, Moya Brennan, Jerry Douglas, Alison Krauss, Mairéad Ní Mhaonaigh, Tim O’Brien, Dolly Parton, Sarah Dugas, Kate Rusby and Darrell Scott. The album is nominated for a Grammy Award.

In addition to her solo work, O’Connell has collaborated with a number of Celtic, folk, pop and country artists, including Van Morrison, Brian Kennedy, Moya Brennan, Mary Black, John Prine, Jerry Douglas, Tim O’Brien, John Gorka, Béla Fleck, Robert Earl Keen, Dolly Parton and Shawn Colvin. She has also sung background vocals for a number of artists, including Van Morrison’s 1988 project with The Chieftains, Irish Heartbeat and Stockton’s Wing on Take A Chance.

Aside from the music world, Martin Scorsese casts O’Connell, scruffed up for the role, as an Irish migrant street singer in his 19th-century epic Gangs of New York, released in 2002.

O’Connell announces the end of her solo career in 2013.

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Death of Robin Williams, Actor & Comedian

robin-williamsRobin McLaurin Williams, American actor and comedian, is found dead in his home in Paradise Cay, California on August 11, 2014 in what is believed to be suicide via asphyxiation.

Williams is born at St. Luke’s Hospital in Chicago, Illinois on July 21, 1951, the son of Robert Fitzgerald Williams, an Irish American and a senior executive in Ford Motor Company‘s Lincoln-Mercury Division. He had English, Irish, Scottish, Welsh, German, and French ancestry

He starts as a stand-up comedian in San Francisco and Los Angeles in the mid-1970s. He is credited with leading San Francisco’s comedy renaissance. After rising to fame as an alien called Mork in the TV sci-fi sitcom series Mork & Mindy, he establishes a career in both stand-up comedy and feature film acting. He is known for his improvisational skills.

After his first starring film role in Popeye (1980), Williams stars or co-stars in various films that achieve both critical acclaim and financial success, including Good Morning, Vietnam (1987), Dead Poets Society (1989), Aladdin (1992), The Birdcage (1996), and Good Will Hunting (1997). He also stars in widely acclaimed films such as The World According to Garp (1982), Moscow on the Hudson (1984), Awakenings (1990), The Fisher King (1991), One Hour Photo (2002), and World’s Greatest Dad (2009), as well as box office hits such as Hook (1991), Mrs. Doubtfire (1993), Jumanji (1995) and Night at the Museum (2006).

Williams wins the 1997 Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his performance as psychologist Sean Maguire in Good Will Hunting. He also receives two Primetime Emmy Awards, seven Golden Globe Awards, two Screen Actors Guild Awards, and four Grammy Awards throughout his career.

On August 11, 2014, Williams commits suicide at his home in Paradise Cay, California, at the age of 63. His wife attributes his suicide to his struggle with diffuse Lewy body dementia. His body is cremated at Montes Chapel of the Hills in San Anselmo and his ashes are scattered in San Francisco Bay on August 21.

Williams’s death instantly becomes global news. The entertainment world, friends, and fans respond to his death through social and other media outlets. U.S. President Barack Obama said of Williams, “He was one of a kind. He arrived in our lives as an alien—but he ended up touching every element of the human spirit.”


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Bill Whelan Receives IMRO Lifetime Achievement Award

bill-whelanTaoiseach Bertie Ahern presents Irish composer and musician Bill Whelan with the IMRO Lifetime Achievement Award at Dublin Castle on March 2, 2001. Such big names as The Corrs, Brian Kennedy, Jean Butler, Jim Sheridan, Paul McGuinness and Moya Doherty join him to celebrate the award.

Whelan is best known for composing a piece for the interval of the 1994 Eurovision Song Contest. The result, Riverdance, is a seven-minute display of traditional Irish dancing that becomes a full-length stage production and spawns a worldwide craze for Irish dancing and Celtic music and also wins him a Grammy Award. It is released as a single in the United Kingdom in 1994, credited to “Bill Whelan and Anúna featuring the RTÉ Concert Orchestra.” It reaches number 9 and stays in the charts for 16 weeks. The album of the same title reaches number 31 in the album charts in 1995. He also composes a symphonic suite version of Riverdance, with its premiere performed by the Ulster Orchestra on BBC Radio 3 in August 2014.

Whelan is a native of Limerick and is educated at Crescent College, University College Dublin and the King’s Inns. While he is best known for his Riverdance composition, he has been involved in many ground-breaking projects in Ireland since the 1970s. As a producer he has worked with U2 (on their War album), Van Morrison, Kate Bush, The Dubliners, Planxty, Andy Irvine & Davy Spillane, Patrick Street, Stockton’s Wing and fellow Limerickman Richard Harris.

In theatre, Whelan receives a Laurence Olivier Award nomination for his adaption of Gilbert and Sullivan‘s H.M.S. Pinafore. He writes original music for fifteen of William Butler Yeats‘s plays for Dublin‘s Abbey Theatre and his film credits include, Dancing at Lughnasa (starring Meryl Streep), Some Mother’s Son, Lamb (starring Liam Neeson) and the award-winning At The Cinema Palace.


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Birth of Irish Folk Singer Moya Brennan

moya-brennanMoya Brennan, born Máire Ní Bhraonáin, Irish folk singer, songwriter, harpist, and philanthropist, is born in Dublin on August 4, 1952.

After leaving secondary school, Brennan spends a few years at the Royal Irish Academy of Music in Dublin studying the harp, the piano, and singing. She has also taught music at Holy Cross College in Falcarragh, County Donegal.

In 1970 Brennan joins her two brothers, Pól and Ciarán, and their mother’s twin brothers, Noel and Pádraig Ó Dúgáin, and form the band Clannad. They are identified and introduced to television by Tony MacMahon. After enjoying a decade of being among the world’s foremost Irish musical groups, Clannad graduates to chart success in 1982 with the album Magical Ring. Brennan is at the forefront of the group’s success and her voice suddenly becomes synonymous with Celtic music and Irish music at the time. Brennan records 17 albums with Clannad and wins a Grammy Award, a BAFTA, and an Ivor Novello award with the quintet. Her sister, Eithne Ní Bhraonáin, who spends some time with Clannad, continues to pursue a very successful solo career under the name Enya.

Brennan releases her first solo album in 1992, Máire, on Atlantic Records. Misty Eyed Adventures on BGM follows three years later. In 1998, Brennan signs with Word Records and releases Perfect Time, and Whisper to the Wild Water a year later. The album is nominated for the Grammy Award for Best New Age Album in 2001.

Brennan’s autobiography, The Other Side of the Rainbow, is published in 2000 and she performs her song Perfect Time live at World Youth Day in Rome in front of crowds of pilgrims and Pope John Paul II. There are 2.1 million people present, making it the largest crowd ever gathered in the Northern Hemisphere.

In film, Brennan is a featured vocalist on King Arthur (2004), co-writing the title theme Tell Me Now (What You See) with Hans Zimmer. She also writes an additional music score for To End All Wars (2001). In 1995, she duets with Shane MacGowan on You’re the One for the movie Circle of Friends. Brennan has collaborated with many other musicians, including Chicane, Alan Parsons, Bono, Robert Plant, Van Morrison, Michael McDonald from the Doobie Brothers, Bruce Hornsby, Joe Elliott, The Chieftains, Paul Young, Paul Brady, Michael Crawford, Joe Jackson, and Ronan Keating.

In total Brennan has recorded 25 albums, and has sold 20 million records. Brennan and Clannad are credited with the creation of contemporary Celtic music and are held in high esteem for their vast contribution to bringing new life to old Irish songs. They have been compared to Seán Ó Riada, in that they brought the Irish language into popular culture through their music. One critic said, “Clannad’s music offers a terrific fusion between traditional and modern influences.” U2 front man Bono says of her voice, “I think Máire has one of the greatest voices the human ear has ever experienced.”


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Birth of Paul David Hewson, U2’s Bono

paul-hewsonPaul David Hewson, Irish singer-songwriter, musician, venture capitalist, businessman, and philanthropist known by his stage name Bono, is born in the Rotunda Hospital, Dublin, on May 10, 1960.

Bono, best known as the lead vocalist of the rock band U2, is raised in Dublin and attends Mount Temple Comprehensive School where he meets his future wife, Alison Stewart, as well as his future U2 bandmates – David “The Edge” Evans, Adam Clayton, and Larry Mullen, Jr.

Bono writes almost all U2 lyrics, frequently using religious, social, and political themes. During U2’s early years, his lyrics contribute to their rebellious and spiritual tone. As the band matures, his lyrics become inspired more by personal experiences shared with the other members. Bono wins numerous awards with U2, including twenty-two Grammy Awards and the 2003 Golden Globe Award for best original song, The Hands That Built America, for the film Gangs of New York.

In 2005, the U2 band members are inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in their first year of eligibility. In November 2008, Rolling Stone magazine ranks Bono as the 32nd-greatest singer of all time.

In 1992, Bono, along with The Edge, purchase and refurbish Dublin’s two-star 70-bedroom Clarence Hotel, converting it into a five-star 49-bedroom hotel.

Bono is on the board of Elevation Partners, a private-equity firm, which attempts to purchase Eidos Interactive in 2005 and has since gone on to invest in other entertainment businesses. Bono invests in the Forbes Media group in the United States through Elevation Partners. Elevation Partners becomes the first outsider to invest in the company, taking a minority stake in Forbes Media LLC, a new company encompassing the 89-year-old business which includes Forbes magazine, the Forbes.com website and other assets. The terms of the deal are not disclosed, but reports say the stake is worth about $250 million. The firm also owns a 1.5 percent stake in the social networking site Facebook, originally purchased for $210 million.

Bono is also widely known for his activism concerning Africa, for which he co-founds DATA, EDUN, the ONE Campaign and Product Red. He organises and plays in several benefit concerts and meets with influential politicians. Over the years, Bono is praised and criticised for his activism and involvement with U2.

In 2007, Bono is named in the U.K.’s New Years Honours List as an honorary Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire. On March 29, 2007, Bono is formally granted knighthood by Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom for “his services to the music industry and for his humanitarian work.” He is also made a Commandeur of the French Ordre des Arts et des Lettres (Order of Arts and Letters). Together with Bill and Melinda Gates, Bono is named Time Person of the Year in 2005, among other awards and nominations.


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U2 Album “The Joshua Tree” is Released

the-joshua-treeThe Joshua Tree, the fifth studio album by Irish rock band U2, is released on March 9, 1987. The album is produced by Daniel Lanois and Brian Eno on Island Records. Formed in 1976, the band consists of Bono (vocals and rhythm guitar), The Edge (lead guitar, keyboards, and vocals), Adam Clayton (bass guitar), and Larry Mullen, Jr. (drums and percussion).

In contrast to the ambient experimentation of their 1984 release The Unforgettable Fire, the band aims for a harder-hitting sound within the limitation of conventional song structures on The Joshua Tree. The album is influenced by American and Irish roots music, and depicts the band’s love–hate relationship with the United States, using socially and politically conscious lyrics embellished with spiritual imagery.

Inspired by American tour experiences, literature, and politics, U2 chooses America as a theme for the album. Recording begins in Ireland in January 1986. Several events during the recording sessions help shape the conscious tone of the album, including the band’s participation in A Conspiracy of Hope tour, the death of roadie Greg Carroll, and lead vocalist Bono’s travels to Central America. Recording is completed in November 1986 and additional production continues into January 1987. Throughout the sessions, U2 seeks a “cinematic” quality for the record, one that will evoke a sense of location, in particular, the open spaces of America. They represent this in the sleeve photography depicting them in American desert landscapes.

The Joshua Tree receives critical acclaim, topping the charts in over 20 countries, and selling in record-breaking numbers. According to Rolling Stone, the album increases the band’s stature “from heroes to superstars.” It produces the hit singles With or Without You, I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For, and Where the Streets Have No Name. The album wins Grammy Awards for Album of the Year and Best Rock Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal in 1988. The group supports the record with the Joshua Tree Tour throughout 1987.

Frequently featured on critics’ lists of music’s greatest records, The Joshua Tree is one of the world’s best-selling albums, with over 25 million copies sold. U2 releases a remastered edition of the record in 2007 to commemorate its 20th anniversary. In 2014, it is deemed “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant” by the U.S. Library of Congress and selected for preservation in the National Recording Registry.


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Van Morrison Inducted Into Rock & Roll Hall of Fame

van-morrisonVan Morrison, known as “Van the Man” to his fans, is inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, Ohio, on January 23, 1993.

Born George Ivan Morrison in Belfast in 1945, Morrison has received six Grammy Awards (1996-2007), the 1994 Brit Award for Outstanding Contribution to Music, and has been inducted into the Irish Music Hall of Fame (September 1999) and the Songwriters Hall of Fame (June 2003). In 2015 he is knighted by Queen Elizabeth II for his musical achievements and his services to tourism and charitable causes in Northern Ireland.

Morrison’s influence can readily be heard in the music of a diverse array of major artists and according to The Rolling Stone’s Encyclopedia of Rock and Roll, “his influence among rock singers/song writers is unrivaled by any living artist outside of that other prickly legend, Bob Dylan. Echoes of Morrison’s rugged literateness and his gruff, feverish emotive vocals can be heard in latter day icons ranging from Bruce Springsteen to Elvis Costello.”

Morrison is inducted into the Hall along with luminaries Ruth Brown, Cream, Creedence Clearwater Revival, The Doors, Frankie Lymon & The Teenagers, and Etta James. In his induction speech of Morrison, the Band’s Robbie Robertson says, “In the tradition of the great Irish poets and the great soul singers, he is the Caruso of rock and roll.” Morrison becomes notable as the first living inductee into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame not to attend his own ceremony. Robertson accepts the award on Morrison’s behalf.

This “Caruso of rock and roll” and magnificent songwriter is also one of the most curmudgeonly live performers in rock and roll history. The satirical Onion newspaper writes of him, “Morrison deserves a spot in the Rock Hall based on his record-breaking streak of 4,256 consecutive shows performed without cracking a smile.”