Irish music lost one of its legends this week, with the passing of Liam O'Flynn.
A player of the Uilleann pipes, O'Flynn, or as he was known by the Gaeilge iteration of his name, Liam Óg Ó Floinn, was born in 1945 to a family of musicians. In his youth, his piping earned him prizes at county and national levels, but it wasn't until he was in his thirties that he really hit his stride. As one of the founding members of Irish trad super group Planxty, O'Flynn helped to breathe new life to traditional Irish music by showing that it could be every bit as exciting and full of life as rock and roll. Without Planxty, there may not have been a Dexy's Midnight Runners; No Waterboys, Pogues, or Dropkick Murphys. We'd all be poorer for it. Plantxy's music left me with the impression, as a kid, that the tunes I played on the instruments I grew up with were cool. I had the privilege of meeting Mr. O'Flynn at a musical festival I was covering for a magazine back in the 1990s. He was pleasant and seemed genuinely pleased to make my acquaintance. The encounter left me feeling giddy for days afterwards.
One of my favorite songs by Planxty, Raggle Taggle Gypsy, has a tune lashed on to the end of it called Tabhair dom do laimh, which roughly translates as Give Me Your Hand. O'Flynn's rendition of the tune has been one of my happy places for decades. The Uilleann pipes are a difficult instrument to play competently. When he's in charge of the bellows, the music that comes out is emotional, and as full of love as the tune's title.
It makes me sad that the world has to go on without him, but I've his music as consolation.
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