While I’m on the subject, here’s another traditional Irish musician who spent some time in Chicago. Raw, energetic, virtuosic, and beautiful. That’s Joe Cooley, and I’d say he is at the heart of Irish music as much as any, and more than most. There is a certain charm to the music he plays, something like the musical equivalent of a wink, that says “well just between the two of us, we know there’s more to this stuff than the notes you hear…” And I must admit, this music is magic. Real faerie enchantment here, it’ll take you to a land between worlds, make you dance a jig with Puck, and won’t let you back till you’ve merrily kissed the faerie queen. Or it’ll make you elbow your neighbor for the bit of naughtiness that slipped through an unassuming trill of notes.
Tony MacMahon, knowing that Cooley was dying from cancer, arranged that famous recording session in Lahiffe’s Bar in Peterswell on November 29, 1973, which so enlivens the Cooley album. Accompanying Cooley was his brother Jack on bodhran and banjo player Des Mulkere from Crusheen in Co Clare. Joe Cooley died a month later, in St Luke’s Hospital, Dublin, on December 20, 1973. He is buried in Kilthomas Cemetary, Peterswell.
Tony MacMahon recalls Cooley’s last session, in Luke Kelly’s Bar in Gort:
A small number of people had gathered on a Sunday midday to hear Joe. Des Mulkere and myself helped him to flake out the ould mountain reels, and as the two o’clock closing hour drew on, a number of musicians made their way in from Galway where they had given a concert the night before – there was Tríona Ní Dhomhnaill, a traditional singer of twenty-one, Paddy Glackin, a young fiddle player, and others … if you should by any chance ever meet them you might detect a lonesome, strong note in their playing: Cooley touched them that day. (from RamblingHouse)
At his funeral service in 1974, an oration was given by Tony McMahon, a life-long admirer of Cooley who said that
Joe Cooley was of extreme importance to Irish traditional culture” and that “he was very much part of what Seán Ó Riada called ‘an náisiún Gaelach.’ He was of great relevance to the Irish people and he, as a traditional musician, helped to express extraordinary feelings for the Irish people.” McMahon also said that Joe Cooley could be considered in the same cultural pantheon as Antoine Raifterí, the blind poet who composed folk verses for the people of East Galway in the early 1800s; Garrett Barry, the great Munster piper; and Johnny Doran, the legendary itinerant piper of the 1940s. (from A Tribute to Joe Cooley)
Enjoy these rare and cherished recordings of the great accordion player from Peterswell, Co. Galway, made between 1963 and November 1973, a month before Cooley’s death.
Joe Cooley – Cooley
nmr | mp3 192kbps | with cover & info | 45mb
and, again, a remarkably accurate tracklist.
*this comment just came in:
My name is Steve Kilcooley, a cousin to Joe Cooley. I was born in New York city in 1948. I remember Joe Staying with my family when He lived in New York circa 1955. I remember every time Joe played at my family’s party’s, I was allowed to stay up and listen to him. (I was 7 years old) I could not believe this kind of music ever existed. The only kind of tradional irish music I was used to, came from a radio or a 78rpm record.
The only other in person music came from my father who played the tin whistle. I remember before Each session , flutes were in the bathtub, windows were raised and the thirsts were beginning to Increase. Then the music started. Irish dancing was at it’s best ! There were no complaints from the neighbors downstairs due to the fact is was a funeral home ! Thank God we lived on the 2nd floor. Till this day I wonder if the music did ‘ wake up the dead ‘ ? . When Joe left us to go to Chicago, I was heartbroken. Joe’s brother Seamus came to live with us for a while. He was playing at Carnegie hall with the Tulla band. He was a bit quieter than Joe but also had the same flair for Irish traditional music . In the early 1980s, I had the pleasure of meeting up with Nancy Cooley , Joe’s wife in Peterswell Galway. We talked about the old days in my Mother and Fathers flat . The times when our windows were open, flutes were swimming , drinks were flying, and the Irish dancing which had a cause an effect that can be measured then on the Richter scale. And of course, the singing which was 100%.
The party always broke up early the next morning. There was Mass and everything had to be quiet
For the up coming wake downstairs. Paddy Murphys bar around the corner were very grateful. They inherited the over flow from my father and mother’s party. My father and Joe Cooley were
The cause of my Irish traditional music addictioin .Those were the times everybody was listening to rock and roll. I was following my addiction to Irish Music. To this day, I still have a picture of myself sitting next to Joe while he was playing the accordiian . Thank god they never found a cure for my addiction. Happy St. Patrick’s Day.
Yonkers, New York