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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 dwelling in Manhattan. A colleague at New York College’s Glucksman Eire Home the place Moloney taught mentioned upon listening to of Moloney’s dying, an amazing 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 discipline 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 guide “Far From The Shamrock Shore: The Story Of Irish-American Immigration By Track,” which was accompanied by a CD of songs.

We will hearken 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 would 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 Aspect Manhattan the place Ed Harrigan lived together with David Braham. This was a time within the early Eighteen Eighties – when the music was written – when Irish immigrants have been residing beside Italian immigrants. And so they have been additionally residing beside African People and Chinese language immigrants, Jap European immigrants arriving – principally Jewish – from Russia and Ukraine. And the entire thing was an actual multicultural mosaic. And the music offers an excellent taste of that.

GROSS: OK. A music 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, a good 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. For example a music like, say, “The Mulligan Guard,” which was their first massive hit – if you happen to take a look at the sheet music, it’s going to go one thing like this.

(Singing) We crave your condescension. We’ll inform you 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 each time he took command. We shouldered weapons and marched and marched away. From Baxter Avenue, we marched to Avenue A. Our fifes and drums, so sweetly they did play as we marched, marched, marched within the Mulligan Guard.

Now, after 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 a little bit bit earlier than his time. With him and his arranger, John Gill, who additionally performs within the band, we form of stepped again one other few many years, mentioned, what may this have gave the impression of 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 first rate reconstruction of what it could have gave the impression of then with the texture, nonetheless, of in the present day as properly. As a result of the intent was by no means – after I began making this CD, the intent was by no means to reconstruct something however to, roughly, get the flavour of what it was like after which do it as if it could have been carried out in the present day 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 inform you 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 each time he took command.

Ahead. March.

(Singing) We shouldered weapons and marched and marched away. From Baxter Avenue, 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 music is about – what? – a neighborhood militia?

MOLONEY: A neighborhood militia. As a result of after the Civil Conflict, there have been lots of people dressed up with nowhere to go. And the entire thought of getting militias that have been going to focus on capturing actually proliferated New York. Dickens wrote so much about it. He was appalled by the quantity of people that clogged up the arterial routes of Manhattan any given Sunday – principally an excuse to have an enormous picnic and drink so much. And a variety of these goal corporations, as they have been referred to as, have been ethnically and fraternally primarily based and infrequently primarily based specifically neighborhoods. So that they have been very aggressive. So the entire thought was actually to go and do some goal capturing. However that by some means obtained overwhelmed by the concept of getting an enormous occasion, plenty 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 music grew to become the preferred music ever for Ed Harrigan and David Braham. And it was taken up by virtually all of the navy 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 navy.


DAVIES: Mick Moloney talking with Terry Gross in 2006. He died final week on the age of 77. After a break, we’ll hearken 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 dwelling to Yankee land. In actual fact, the little USA seems higher now to me. It is the true place for the true people. Perceive? However nonetheless, I typically sit and assume, what would this nation do if it hadn’t males like Rosenstein and Hughes? We might absolutely 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 massive department 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 totally different than another pairing in Tin Pan Alley?

MOLONEY: I believe it was as a result of, to begin 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 House.” You consider Victor Herbert, who launched operetta to America. The record goes on and on. And I believe the Irish would have come from a performing arts tradition the place music and dance and storytelling have been all the time extremely valued.

And out of the blue, you will have new immigration from a really comparable tradition, a tradition that – the place it’s totally vocal. It is very 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, totally different causes. And so they take to the stage, you already know, 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 highschool. He needs to be a songwriter. And music was declasse. It was on the fringes. And each the Irish and the Jews at numerous occasions have been on the fringes of society. And I believe 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 the direction of. So I believe it was an excellent combine.

GROSS: You talked about Al Dubin. And he is, you already know, a Jewish lyricist who labored so much 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 Avenue,” “I Solely Have Eyes For You,” “We’re In The Cash.” However he additionally writes this, like, Irish music that you’ve featured in your CD. It is referred to as ‘Twas Solely An Irishman’s Dream. And the lyric contains, oh, the shamrocks are blooming on Broadway.

MOLONEY: (Laughter) Yeah.

GROSS: Each woman is an Irish colleen. And it is so humorous to consider this, like, Jewish songwriter writing from the standpoint of an Irish American who’s, like, dreaming that the whole lot in Manhattan is basically Irish. On one stage, it is actually phony as a result of he is writing from a standpoint that he would not have. (Laughter) He is not he is not Irish American. He is Jewish American. His story is so totally different. Alternatively, that does not imply that the music would imply any much less to the individuals who hear it.

MOLONEY: After I found it first, I assumed it was full, absolute nonsense, you already know? 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 already know, my perspective to all that modified. In 1995, I used to be a part of a workforce of a variety 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, In poor health., Mauldin, Des Moines, to say however many. And after the discuss, 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 already know, the penny dropped instantly that these folks have been trauma victims. They have been refugees. And, you already know, my associates and colleagues inform me that there is the identical sort of survivor guilt amongst Holocaust victims. It could have been that, maybe, among the many Irish. What are you going to inform your kids, that you just guarded your meals provide while you watched your neighbors die or different members of your loved ones die, that you just have been one of many fortunate ones who got here to America? And out of the blue, I spotted why Tin Pan Alley, these photographs, that are invented photographs of sort of an imagined wholeness, why they have been engaging to folks. It was great things. It was actually great things. There was nothing unhealthy about it. And I am certain folks realized that, you already know, this was sort of a fantasy world. However, you already know, we want good issues to consider and good issues to inform our youngsters and our grandchildren. So I believe that they have been catering for a market. They have been skilled craftsmen. They knew how you can assemble sounds. The melodies are lovely. The lyrics are intelligent. And “‘Twas Solely An Irishman’s Dream,” I believe is among the nice songs of Tin Pan Alley and one in every of Al Dubin’s biggest.

MOLONEY: Mick, I will ask you to carry out an excerpt of one of many songs in your CD referred to as “The Previous Bathroom Highway.” And I believe it is a actually good instance of the you already know, I am in New York, however I am craving for my dwelling in Eire sort of music. And it isn’t a music I’ve heard earlier than. So inform us the story behind this one and why you selected it.

MOLONEY: Sure, a music I heard, actually, far too many occasions earlier than. Each unhealthy tenor in my native Limerick when he obtained drunk felt obliged to sing it and inflict it on the entire inhabitants. So I hated the music with a ardour. I all the time thought it was a Tin Pan Alley music from Broadway, and in a way it was as a result of it was written by a girl 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 dwelling and assembly individuals who by no means had gone dwelling and could not go dwelling. 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 out of the blue realized the great thing about the music. 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 arms are blistered by way of work in chilly and warmth. However oh, to swing a scythe in the present day by way of fields of Irish wheat. Had I the possibility to journey again or personal a king’s abode, I would sooner see the hawthorn tree by the previous lavatory highway.

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

MOLONEY: Effectively, it made sense on one stage as a result of virtually everyone I knew in Eire had emigrants in England or America. So the concept of being away from dwelling, of being in an exile, as we referred to as it, culturally, that made sense. But it surely was sort of schmaltzy. You recognize, and while you’re younger, you are not nostalgic, typically 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 Previous Bathroom Highway.” Then after I got here to America, my perspective to the music modified, and the extra years I spent right here, the extra I can empathize with these individuals who by no means might go dwelling.

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 dying, 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 by way of music and dance.


MOLONEY: (Singing) Inexperienced grows the laurel. Comfortable 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. Comfortable 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: Arising, Ken Tucker critiques Beyonce’s first studio album in six years. That is FRESH AIR.


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