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HomeMusicRemembering Irish musician and folklorist Mick Moloney : NPR

Remembering Irish musician and folklorist Mick Moloney : NPR


That is FRESH AIR. I am Dave Davies, in for Terry Gross. Mick Moloney, a beloved musician and folklorist who revived centuries-old, forgotten Irish songs, died final week on the age of 77 at his residence in Manhattan. A colleague at New York College’s Glucksman Eire Home the place Moloney taught mentioned upon listening to of Moloney’s loss of life, an ideal flame of musical pleasure and friendship has been extinguished. Moloney is credited with bringing conventional Irish music to a wider viewers and with encouraging feminine instrumentalists within the male-dominated subject of music. He sang and performed guitar, mandolin and banjo and recorded or produced greater than 70 albums of Irish music.

Moloney was born in Eire and emigrated to the U.S. In 1999, he obtained a Nationwide Heritage Award for his work in public folklore from the Nationwide Endowment for the Arts. Moloney was obsessed with exploring connections between Irish, African and American roots music. He wrote the e-book “Far From The Shamrock Shore: The Story Of Irish-American Immigration By way of Tune,” which was accompanied by a CD of songs.

We’ll take heed to excerpts of two of his interviews with Terry Gross. The primary was recorded in 2006 after the discharge of his album “McNally’s Row Of Flats,” which featured Irish American songs of New York within the 1870s and ’80s by the songwriting workforce Ed Harrigan and David Braham.


TERRY GROSS: Mick Moloney, welcome to FRESH AIR. I might such as you to introduce the primary observe on the brand new CD, which known as “McNally’s Row Of Flats.” Would you describe this as an – one of many actually early songs about metropolis life in America?

MICK MOLONEY: It’s certainly one of many early songs about metropolis life in America, and it comes out of the context of Decrease East Facet Manhattan the place Ed Harrigan lived together with David Braham. This was a time within the early Eighties – when the track was written – when Irish immigrants had been residing beside Italian immigrants. They usually had been additionally residing beside African People and Chinese language immigrants, Japanese European immigrants arriving – largely Jewish – from Russia and Ukraine. And the entire thing was an actual multicultural mosaic. And the track offers an excellent taste of that.

GROSS: OK. A track about multiculturalism lengthy earlier than anyone invented the phrase. (Laughter) Right here it’s, “McNally’s Row Of Flats.”


MOLONEY: (Singing) Down in Bottle Alley lived Timothy McNally, an honest politician and a gentleman at that – beloved by all the women, the garsuns (ph) and the infants that occupy the constructing referred to as McNally’s row of flats. And it is Eire and Italy, Jerusalem and Germany, Chinese language and Africans and a paradise for rats. All jumbled up collectively within the snow and wet climate, they represent the tenants in McNally’s row of flats. That nice conglomeration of males from each nation, the tower of Babylonium (ph), it could not equal that. A peculiar establishment the place the brogues with out dilution, they rattled on collectively in McNally’s row of flats. And it is Eire and Italy, Jerusalem and Germany, Chinese language and Africans and a paradise for rats. All jumbled up collectively within the snow and wet climate, they represent the tenants in McNally’s row of flats.

GROSS: Would you simply place us musically right here? I imply, that is an period – we’re speaking, like, 18 seven – 1870s to Eighteen Nineties?

MOLONEY: Mmm-hmm.

GROSS: And so it sort of precedes Tin Pan Alley.

MOLONEY: It does, sure.

GROSS: So what are the entertainments of that point?

MOLONEY: Effectively, you’ll consider Gilbert and Sullivan round that period. That is the late 1870s. Really, Harrigan and Braham began writing songs about six or seven years earlier than Gilbert and Sullivan. Among the songs have considerably of the identical really feel to them. In fact, Gilbert and Sullivan go into opera and operetta, and Harrigan and Braham and Hart, they persist with musical comedy, musical theater. As an example a track like, say, “The Mulligan Guard,” which was their first large hit – if you happen to have a look at the sheet music, it’s going to go one thing like this.

(Singing) We crave your condescension. We’ll let you know what we all know from marching within the Mulligan Guard within the Sligo Ward beneath. Our captain’s title was Hussey, a Tipperary man. He shouldered his sword like a Russian duke every time he took command. We shouldered weapons and marched and marched away. From Baxter Road, we marched to Avenue A. Our fifes and drums, so sweetly they did play as we marched, marched, marched within the Mulligan Guard.

Now, once I went and listened to that in sheet music, it did not sound like that a lot of an enormous deal. And I knew that it wanted one thing as a window into the previous to make it extra evocative of the unique really feel of the music on this context. This was the period of marching bands, in fact. So I went to Vince Giordano, who has a band, the Nighthawks, and…

GROSS: They do swing tunes and early jazz.

MOLONEY: Yeah, early jazz. And this was somewhat bit earlier than his time. With him and his arranger, John Gill, who additionally performs within the band, we type of stepped again one other few many years, mentioned, what would possibly this have appeared like in a pit orchestra within the Harrigan and Hart and Braham period? You are speaking in regards to the 1870s. And we did what we felt can be a reasonably respectable reconstruction of what it could have appeared like then with the texture, nonetheless, of at this time as effectively. As a result of the intent was by no means – once I began making this CD, the intent was by no means to reconstruct something however to, kind of, get the flavour of what it was like after which do it as if it could have been carried out at this time by Harrigan.

GROSS: Effectively, why do not we hear the way it sounds in your CD…


GROSS: …With Vince Giordano’s band behind you? So that is “The Mulligan Guards” (ph).


MOLONEY: (Singing) We crave your condescension. We’ll let you know what we all know of marching within the Mulligan Guard from the Sligo Ward beneath. Our captain’s title was Hussey, a Tipperary man. He carried his sword like a Russian duke every time he took command.

Ahead. March.

(Singing) We shouldered weapons and marched and marched away. From Baxter Road, we marched to Avenue A. Our fifes and drums, so sweetly they did play as we marched, marched, marched within the Mulligan Guard.

GROSS: Now, this track is about – what? – a neighborhood militia?

MOLONEY: A neighborhood militia. As a result of after the Civil Warfare, there have been lots of people dressed up with nowhere to go. And the entire concept of getting militias that had been going to focus on taking pictures actually proliferated New York. Dickens wrote quite a bit about it. He was appalled by the quantity of people that clogged up the arterial routes of Manhattan any given Sunday – mainly an excuse to have an enormous picnic and drink quite a bit. And a whole lot of these goal firms, as they had been referred to as, had been ethnically and fraternally primarily based and sometimes primarily based specifically neighborhoods. In order that they had been very aggressive. So the entire concept was actually to go and do some goal taking pictures. However that by some means received overwhelmed by the thought of getting an enormous occasion, a lot of drunkenness. This was very New York, very city New York.

So this was satire from the very begin. And the unusual factor about it was that the track turned the preferred track ever for Ed Harrigan and David Braham. And it was taken up by nearly all of the army bands. John Philip Sousa’s band performed it. Gilmore’s band performed it. It was even performed in all of the British regimental bands. And Kipling in his novel “Kim” even mentions a regimental British band in India enjoying “The Mulligan Guard,” even calls the primary refrain. I doubt if that previous imperialists would have identified it was written by an Irish American as a ship up of the army.


DAVIES: Mick Moloney talking with Terry Gross in 2006. He died final week on the age of 77. After a break, we’ll take heed to parts of their 2009 interview. That is FRESH AIR.


DAVIES: That is FRESH AIR. We’re listening to our interviews with musician and folklorist Mick Moloney, who died final week on the age of 77. He spoke with Terry Gross in 2009 after the discharge of his CD “If It Wasn’t For The Irish And The Jews,” which featured Tin Pan Alley collaborations between Irish and Jewish songwriters. They started with the title observe, written in 1912 by William Jerome, who was Irish, and Jean Schwartz, who was Jewish. Moloney sings on the observe and is accompanied by Vince Giordano and the Nighthawks.


MOLONEY: (Singing) I’ve simply returned from Europe. I’ve seen London and Paris. And I am glad to get again residence to Yankee land. In actual fact, the little USA seems to be higher now to me. It is the true place for the true people. Perceive? However nonetheless, I usually sit and suppose, what would this nation do if it hadn’t males like Rosenstein and Hughes? We would certainly have a kingdom. There’d be no democracy if it wasn’t for the Irish and the Jews. What would this nice Yankee nation actually, actually ever do if it wasn’t for a Levy, a Monahan or Donohue? The place would we get our policemen? Why, Uncle Sam would have the blues with out the Pats and Isadores. There’d be no large shops if it wasn’t for the Irish and the Jews.

GROSS: Mick Moloney, welcome again to FRESH AIR. Was the pairing between Irish and Jewish songwriters completely different than every other pairing in Tin Pan Alley?

MOLONEY: I feel it was as a result of, to start with, the Irish had dominated American standard music, actually, for the entire of the nineteenth century. You consider main figures like Thomas Moore. You consider Dan Emmett, who wrote “Dixie.” You consider Stephen Foster, who would have been Scotch-Irish. You consider Patrick Sarsfield Gilmore, who wrote “When Johnny Comes Marching Residence.” You consider Victor Herbert, who launched operetta to America. The checklist goes on and on. And I feel the Irish would have come from a performing arts tradition the place music and dance and storytelling had been all the time extremely valued.

And all of a sudden, you will have new immigration from a really related tradition, a tradition that – the place it’s extremely vocal. It’s extremely a lot concerned within the arts. It is a diaspora, just like the Irish. They are not going again to the place they got here from for, maybe, completely different causes. They usually take to the stage, you understand, instantly. And within the Eighteen Nineties, you see folks like Al Dubin arriving in Philadelphia. He is solely three on the time. And he will not go to high school. He desires to be a songwriter. And music was declasse. It was on the fringes. And each the Irish and the Jews at numerous occasions had been on the fringes of society. And I feel the leisure world – the sports activities world, maybe, in one other manner – has been a spot the place individuals who cannot get on so simply in different elements of life, that they have an inclination to gravitate in direction of. So I feel it was an excellent combine.

GROSS: You talked about Al Dubin. And he is, you understand, a Jewish lyricist who labored quite a bit with Harry Warren within the ’20s and ’30s. And he wrote lyrics for, like, Busby Berkeley musicals, lyrics for songs like “Lullaby Of Broadway,” “forty second Road,” “I Solely Have Eyes For You,” “We’re In The Cash.” However he additionally writes this, like, Irish track that you’ve featured in your CD. It is referred to as ‘Twas Solely An Irishman’s Dream. And the lyric consists of, oh, the shamrocks are blooming on Broadway.

MOLONEY: (Laughter) Yeah.

GROSS: Each woman is an Irish colleen. And it is so humorous to think about this, like, Jewish songwriter writing from the viewpoint of an Irish American who’s, like, dreaming that the whole lot in Manhattan is absolutely Irish. On one degree, it is actually phony as a result of he is writing from a viewpoint that he would not have. (Laughter) He is not he isn’t Irish American. He is Jewish American. His story is so completely different. Alternatively, that does not imply that the track would imply any much less to the individuals who hear it.

MOLONEY: After I found it first, I believed it was full, absolute nonsense, you understand? Rising up in Eire and rising up within the rain and digging potatoes – all these Tin Pan Alley songs, they’d no reference to any sort of actuality that I might have identified in Eire rising up. However, you understand, my angle to all that modified. In 1995, I used to be a part of a workforce of a whole lot of Irish lecturers, historians, sports activities writers and musicians who travelled throughout America commemorating the one hundred and fiftieth anniversary of the Nice Irish Famine. And I used to be in locations that I hadn’t been earlier than – Peoria, Sick., Mauldin, Des Moines, to say however many. And after the speak, folks of their 80s got here as much as me in shock and mentioned, now we all know for the primary time why our grandparents by no means talked about Eire.

And, you understand, the penny dropped instantly that these folks had been trauma victims. They had been refugees. And, you understand, my mates and colleagues inform me that there is the identical sort of survivor guilt amongst Holocaust victims. It will have been that, maybe, among the many Irish. What are you going to inform your youngsters, that you just guarded your meals provide if you watched your neighbors die or different members of your loved ones die, that you just had been one of many fortunate ones who got here to America? And all of a sudden, I spotted why Tin Pan Alley, these pictures, that are invented pictures of sort of an imagined wholeness, why they had been engaging to folks. It was great things. It was actually great things. There was nothing dangerous about it. And I am certain folks realized that, you understand, this was sort of a fantasy world. However, you understand, we want good issues to consider and good issues to inform our youngsters and our grandchildren. So I feel that they had been catering for a market. They had been knowledgeable craftsmen. They knew find out how to assemble sounds. The melodies are lovely. The lyrics are intelligent. And “‘Twas Solely An Irishman’s Dream,” I feel is likely one of the nice songs of Tin Pan Alley and one in every of Al Dubin’s biggest.

MOLONEY: Mick, I’ll ask you to carry out an excerpt of one of many songs in your CD referred to as “The Outdated Bathroom Highway.” And I feel this can be a actually good instance of the you understand, I am in New York, however I am craving for my residence in Eire sort of track. And it isn’t a track I’ve heard earlier than. So inform us the story behind this one and why you selected it.

MOLONEY: Sure, a track I heard, actually, far too many occasions earlier than. Each dangerous tenor in my native Limerick when he received drunk felt obliged to sing it and inflict it on the entire inhabitants. So I hated the track with a ardour. I all the time thought it was a Tin Pan Alley track from Broadway, and in a way it was as a result of it was written by a lady referred to as Teresa Brayton, who was a poet. And she or he was married in – her maiden title was Boyle (ph). She was married and residing in Broadway and had an actual sturdy sense of being indifferent from residence and assembly individuals who by no means had gone residence and could not go residence. And she or he wrote it, and the music was placed on later. However my nice mentor, Frank Harte, sang it with a mournful fashion, not melodramatic in any respect. And I all of a sudden realized the fantastic thing about the track. And all my resistance went away.

And it goes, (enjoying guitar, singing) my ft are right here on Broadway this blessed harvest morn. However oh, the ache that is in my coronary heart for the spot the place I used to be born. My weary palms are blistered via work in chilly and warmth. However oh, to swing a scythe at this time via fields of Irish wheat. Had I the prospect to journey again or personal a king’s abode, I might sooner see the hawthorn tree by the previous lavatory street.

GROSS: And rising up in Eire, did this track make no sense to you? As a result of, like, had been you considering, precisely what are you craving for?

MOLONEY: Effectively, it made sense on one degree as a result of nearly all people I knew in Eire had emigrants in England or America. So the thought of being away from residence, of being in an exile, as we referred to as it, culturally, that made sense. Nevertheless it was sort of schmaltzy. You understand, and if you’re younger, you are not nostalgic, usually talking. You wish to get on with issues. And I used to be extra into listening to The Beatles and the rock and The Rolling Stones than I used to be listening to “The Outdated Bathroom Highway.” Then once I got here to America, my angle to the track modified, and the extra years I spent right here, the extra I can empathize with these individuals who by no means might go residence.

GROSS: Effectively, Mick Moloney, it has been nice to speak with you once more. Thanks a lot.

MOLONEY: It is a pleasure.

DAVIES: Mick Moloney talking with Terry Gross in 2009. He died final week on the age of 77. On the time of his loss of life, he was engaged on a movie referred to as “Two Roads Diverged” about how Irish People and African People within the nineteenth and twentieth century America discovered frequent floor via music and dance.


MOLONEY: (Singing) Inexperienced grows the laurel. Tender falls the dew. Sorry am I, love, I am parted with you. Sorry am I, love, contented have to be. She loves one other much better than me. I handed my love’s window early and late. The look that she gave me – it made my coronary heart break. The look that she gave me would 10,000 kill. She loves one other, however I like her nonetheless. Inexperienced grows the laurel. Tender falls the dew. Sorry am I, love, I am parted with you. Sorry am I, love, contented have to be. She loves one other much better than me.

DAVIES: Developing, Ken Tucker critiques Beyonce’s first studio album in six years. That is FRESH AIR.


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