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Donal Lunny

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Donal Lunny

Dónal Lunny
Dónal Lunny, 2006
Background information
Born (1947-03-10) 10 March 1947 (age 67)
Tullamore, County Offaly, Republic of Ireland
Genres Irish traditional music
Occupations Musician, songwriter, record producer
Instruments Vocals, guitar, bouzouki, bodhran
Years active 1970–present
Associated acts Planxty
The Bothy Band
Moving Hearts
Christy Moore
Mícheál Ó Domhnaill
The Emmet Spiceland

Dónal Lunny (born 10 March 1947) is an Irish folk musician. Lunny has been at the forefront of the evolution of Irish traditional music for more than 35 years and has participated within the renaissance of that genre during that period. He is the brother of musician and producer Manus Lunny.[1] Lunny plays string instruments left-handed.

Early life and career

Dónal Lunny was born 10 March 1947 in Tullamore. His family moved to Newbridge, County Kildare.

As a teenager, Lunny joined a band called Rakes of Kildare, with Christy Moore. Later he formed the group, Emmet Folk, with Mick Moloney. Players from Emmet Folk and Spiceland Folk joined forces to form The Emmet Spiceland—what now would be described as Lunny's first "boy band". Their debut album, The First, was released in 1968. As a vocal harmony group, they had a number 1 hit in Ireland with the single "Mary from Dungloe", which had earlier been popularised in Dublin's folk clubs by Dónal and his Emmet Folk group confrere Mick Moloney. In 1971, Donal played on Prosperous, the second album by Christy Moore.[1]



In 1972, four of the musicians who played on Prosperous—Lunny, Christy Moore, Andy Irvine, and Liam O'Flynn—formed the group Planxty. Their first professional performance was in Slattery's Pub in Capel Street, Dublin in early 1972. The band became a leading proponent of Irish traditional instrumental music for the next ten years.[1] In 1974, Lunny produced and performed on the album Celtic Folkweave by Mick Hanly and Mícheál Ó Domhnaill, who had been supporting Planxty on tour. Hanly, Ó'Domhnaill, and Lunny were supported in the studio by Liam O'Flynn on uilleann pipes and whistle, Matt Molloy on flute, Tommy Peoples on fiddle, and Tríona Ní Dhomhnaill on harpsichord—players who would join Lunny in forming The Bothy Band, one of the most influential Irish tradition music groups on the 1970s.[1][2][3]

The Bothy Band

In 1974, Lunny left Planxty to form The Bothy Band, playing guitar and bouzouki. The Bothy Band quickly developed a reputation as one of the most influential bands playing Irish traditional music. Their enthusiasm and musical virtuosity had a significant influence on the Irish traditional music movement that continued well after they disbanded in 1979.[2]

Moving Hearts

After the Bothy Band disbanded, Lunny became a session musician on various projects, including Davey and Morris, the first album to feature Shaun Davey. In 1981, Lunny reunited with Christy Moore to form Moving Hearts, along with a young uilleann piper, Davy Spillane. Followed the example of the group Horslips, Moving Hearts combined Irish traditional music with rock and roll, and also added elements of jazz to their sound. The group disbanded in 1985. In February 2007, Moving Hearts performed a reunion concert in Dublin. In 2008 and 2009, the group performed several concerts in Ireland and the United States.[1]

Production career

In 1987, Lunny recorded a solo album titled Donal Lunny (Gael-Linn 1987), which included many guest musicians playing his music and arrangements. In 1998, he produced a similar group project album titled Coolfin. More recently, Lunny performed and recorded with a multicultural group called Mozaik, featuring Bruce Molsky, Nikola Parov, Rens van der Zalm, and ex-Planxty co-performer Andy Irvine.[1]

When Moving Hearts broke up in 1985, Lunny diversified. He learned keyboards and mandolin and became a producer. He had already produced a 45-rpm single for Skid Row (featuring the then 17-year-old Gary Moore), and in 1975 produced an album A Silk Purse for electric folk band 'Spud' who went on to introduce Paul McGuinness to band management. He was closely involved in the establishment of a new Irish record label: Mulligan records, and produced and played on many of its early releases, the first of which was Pumpkinhead. He played on several Christy Moore albums, and was a producer & session musician on Kate Bush albums. He played bouzouki and bodhrán on Shaun Davey's Granuaile, and Fiddle on Midnight Well's "Saw you running". He composed the soundtrack for a Turkish film, "Teardrops", and the Irish film "Eat the Peach", and played on the soundtrack of the film This Is My Father and the TV program The River of Sound. In 1989, he contributed synthesizer on Mary Black's break-through album No Frontiers.

He was the producer and music director of the soundtrack of Bringing It All Back Home, a BBC television documentary series charting the influence of Irish music throughout the world. He produced albums for Paul Brady, Elvis Costello, Rod Stewart, Indigo Girls, Sinéad O'Connor, Clannad, Maurice Lennon, Baaba Maal, and Five Guys Named Moe,.[4] He appeared on compilation albums - Gathering (1981) and Common Ground (1996). In 1994, he produced Irish Australian singer/songwriter Mairéid Sullivan's first recording, Dancer[5] He pushed new boundaries with his band Coolfin (1998) which included uilleann piper John McSherry. He appeared at the 2000 Cambridge Folk Festival, and the album that commemorated it. In 2001 Lunny collaborated with Frank Harte on the album My Name is Napoleon Bonaparte. He produced the album Human Child (2007) by Faeroese Eivør Pálsdóttir, which is published in two versions, one English, and one Faeroese

As an arranger, he has worked for The Waterboys, Fairground Attraction and Eddi Reader. Journey (2000) is a retrospective album. In 2004 Lunny was part of the reunited Planxty concert tour.

He also produced Jimmy MacCarthy's album entitled Hey-Ho Believe, which was released on 12 November 2010.

Lunny continues to contribute tirelessly to contemporary music in Ireland, touring with Zoe Conway and Mairtin O'Connor, and LAPD, the latest grouping of players from Planxty, the name made up from the initials of Liam O'Flynn, Andy Irvine, Paddy Glackin and Donal Lunny.


Dónal Lunny has some claim to popularising the bouzouki in the Irish music sphere after its initial introduction by Johnny Moynihan. Lunny ordered a custom-built bouzouki from English luthier, Peter Abnett (who still makes instruments to this day), with a flat back instead of a traditional Greek rounded back. This made it more comfortable to play. In 1981 he went one step further by creating an electric bouzouki, though this failed to catch on.

More recently, he invented an instrument designed to solve the problem of a bass/percussion instrument in Irish traditional music. The process of building and developing the instrument was featured on his 2010 RTE series "Lorg Lunny".

Personal life

Dónal Lunny is married to Japanese musician Hidebo Itami, a member of the musical group Soul Flower Union. The couple now make their home in Okinawa, Japan. They have a daughter, Sora Chan. He has children from earlier relationships: a son, the DJ Oisin Lunny, by his first wife, Judy. (Oisin was a member of Marxman), a daughter, violinist Cora Venus Lunny, and a son named Shane born in March 2004 whose mother is Sinéad O'Connor.

In addition to his musical activities, Lunny is a skilled gold-and-silversmith, who trained at the National College of Art in Dublin, although he only practised the craft for a short time before devoting his energies to music.



  • The Transatlantic Sessions Series 3 (2007), DVD
  • Moving Hearts Live in Dublin (Moving Hearts) (2008), DVD



External links

  • Dónal Lunny at Allmusic

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