Jeanne Rathbone

Dolores Keane singer Notable Galway Woman

Posted in Dolores Keane singer and Notable Galway Woman by sheelanagigcomedienne on August 12, 2018




Dolores Keane is one of Ireland’s greatest singers and is undoubtedly a Notable Galway women. She is usually referred to as either a folk, traditional or Celtic singer. He voice is so distinctive, resonant and haunting with a definite Galway twang. She is dubbed the “Voice of Ireland” by Nanci Griffith. Dolores is known the world-over for her deep, melodic voice which often lives up to her name which means ‘sorrow’. She is a singer of the stature of Bessie Smith, Umm Kulthum and Aretha Franklin according to the Immortal Jukebox blogger

Her Galway Bay is, for me, the definite Galway song


though I have a soft spot for the Tin Pan Alley Galway Bay as sung by Bing Crosby in 1966 and recorded in Dublin.                                  

Here is an earlier video of them talking about their musical heritage  and singing ‘I am thinking, ever thinking’                               

They Keane family produced an album in 1985 which has been reissued.Dolores and family record

In the sleeve notes, Dolores  writes: ‘My earliest recollections of music and singing were when I was about three years of age. My grandmother’s house, where I spent much of my childhood, was often visited by many fine musicians and singers. Among them were Willie Clancy, Máirtín Byrnes, Seán ‘ac Dhonncha and many others from neighbouring villages. During the music sessions at the house, the ‘noble call’ operated among the gathered company and, even at the age of four or five, I was expected to do my bit. This encouraged me to learn songs and tunes.

Like all my brothers and sisters, I was fortunate to grow up in an atmosphere where learning songs and tunes was like learning to read or to walk. I remember Ulick McDonnell, an elderly neighbour, visiting the house and swapping songs with my grandmother. I remember my Uncle Paddy playing his flute, while visiting travelling people danced a set in the kitchen and I remember Ciarán Mac Mathúna coming to record songs for his Ceolta Tire radio programme.

In 1975, she co-founded the very successful traditional Irish band De Danaan and they released their debut album Dé Danann in that same year. The group gained international recognition and enjoyed major success in the late 1970s in the US. Dolores went touring with the band and their single “The Rambling Irishman” was a big hit in Ireland. In early 1976, after a short two-year spell, she left left De Dannan.





Soon thereafter, she married multi-instrumentalist John Faulkner musician John  with whom she had worked on many occasions, in 1977 and with whom she would subsequently record three albums of folk music.

Dolores and John

Dolores lived and worked in London for several years with John  before they moved to Ireland in the early 1980s. They worked on a series of film scores and programmes for the BBC and formed two successful bands, The Reel Union and Kinvara. During this period Dolores recorded her first solo album, There Was a Maid in 1978. This was followed by two other releases, Broken Hearted I’ll Wander (1979) and Farewell to Eirinn (1980), which gave credit to Faulkner.

In the mid-1980s she rejoined De Danaan and recorded the albums Anthem and Ballroom with them.

De Danaan with Dolores

After a very difficult pregnancy, Dolores gave birth to their first child, Joseph. He was born with a condition Laurence -Moon Bardet-Biedl Syndrome  which causes obesity and and failing leading to blindness. Her marriage ended in 1988.

She then resumed on a very successful solo career, establishing herself as one of the most loved interpreters of Irish song.  She also toured with Planxty and collaborated with The Chieftains on the album “Bonapart’s Retreat”.

1988 saw the release of the eponymous Dolores Keane album. Her follow-up album A Lion in a Cage, in 1989 which featured a song written by Faulkner called Lion in the Cage  protesting the imprisonment of Nelson Mandela  It became her second Irish number one and she performed the hit at the celebration of his release. This exposure expanded Dolores’s reputation and popularity worldwide.

She played the female lead in the Dublin production of  Brendan Behan’s The Hostage the opening night of which was attended by Mary Robinson  the President of Ireland at the time.

The story of A Women’s Heart

In 1992, Delores was among the many female Irish singers to lend their music to the record-smashing anthology A Woman’s Heart. The album, which also featured Eleanor McEvoy, Mary Black, Frances Black Sharon Shannon and Maura O’Connell , went on to become the biggest-selling album in Irish history. A Woman’s Heart Vol.2 was released in late 1994 and emulated its predecessor in album charts the world over. Also in 1994, a solo album, entitled Solid Ground, was released on the Shanachie label and received critical acclaim in Europe and America.

Dolores and Sean

In 1995, Dolores was was awarded the prestigious Fiddler’s Green Hall of Fame award in Rostrevor Co Down for her “significant contribution to the cause of Irish music and culture”. In that same year, she took to the stage in the Dublin production of  Synge’s Playboy of the Western World.

Dolores at home 2007

She contributed to the RTE/BBC television production “Bringing It All Back Home”, a series of programmes illustrating the movement of Irish music to America. Dolores was shown performing both in Nashville  with musicians such as  Emmylou Harris and Richard Thompson and at home in Galway with her aunts Rita and Sarah.

In August 1997, Dolores went to number one again in the Irish album charts with a compilation album with her most loved songs. And another studio album was released by her in 1998, called Night Owl. Dolores Night Owl

It saw her returning to her traditional Irish roots and it did well in Europe and America. Despite a healthy solo career, she went on tour with De Danaan again in the late 1990s, where she played to packed audiences in venues such as Birmingham Alabama and New York City.

Dolores, Emmylu and mary Sonny

But then she stopped touring. By then she had settled with her partner Barry ‘Bazza’ Farmer which lasted for 20 years and she had her daughter Tara in 1994  with him. Her relationship ended a few years ago. Dolores had problems with alcoholism and depression and has received extensive treatment for these conditions. She was also diagnosed and treated for breast cancer.

Dolores  has pleaded guilty to drink driving at Clonboo on November 19 2010 and again in Glenties. in 2014 she attended a hearing asking to have her licence restored as she needed it to attend medical appointments following development of breast cancer and, to continue to attend her AA meetings.

Dolores outside Glenties counrt July 2014

Dolores outside Glenties Court when she asked to be given back her licence halfway through her four year ban.

There is an article from 2014 by Barry Egan.

“I was ready to give singing a break,” Dolores says, because it was enabling her to be an alcoholic but, “I didn’t know how to give up singing. But I did need a break from singing. I was burnt out.”

In hindsight, Dolores believes that the heavy drinking was her way of “trying to get away from the singing and where she was in her life.” Despite the praise and international accolades, Dolores wasn’t happy “having to put the good face on. I had had enough of that.”

“I was fed up with the road,” she continues. “I was fed up with the songs I was singing. I was fed up with the approach of the bands I had and everything else. It was all the same old ding dong. I wanted to change all that. I wanted this new lease of life.”

This article is about the tour that Dolores did with her brother Sean in 2015/16   when she went on on tour for the first time in over 30 years  with him

This article is also about the tour

“Music has got me all over the world and it’s been a fabulous experience. We’ve been to America, China, Hong Kong, Bermuda, Australia, New Zealand and all over Europe. Getting paid always seemed like a bonus.”

Are there any songs she never tires of singing?

“I love The Island and Galway Bay and Caledonia and Never Be The Sun. Caledonia is a song people always ask for; I can’t not do that one. But as soon as I introduce it, people sing it back to me so it’s an easy gig for me,” she laughs.

There was an article in Ireland’s Own which also mentions the RTE 2015 documentary

In the past couple of year Dolores has gone public about her troubles and she told the full, unvarnished story in a searingly honest and acclaimed documentary by Liam McGrath, entitled ‘Dolores Keane: A Storm In The Heart’, initially shown on RTE television last year and recently repeated.

Many people were very moved by the brutal honesty of the story she told, and wished her well in getting her life back on an even keel and her career back on track.

She has shown courage and determination in telling her story in the hope of inspiring and helping others, and she has been back on the touring circuit for the past 18 months, being joined in many of the shows by her equally well known and talented brother, Sean.

The trademark flowing red hair has gone as a result of her cancer treatment but the quality of her remarkable voice and the love of the songs which has always driven her is still undimmed.

Dolores comeback

It wasn’t just Keane’s honesty in relation to her life and the way that she exposed the same ordinary human failings – as we all have – to the camera that people loved about the documentary A Storm in the Heart. This isn’t the reason why the tickets for her comeback tour of the same name will disappear quicker than the May morning dew. It is also the complete lack of egoism she eschewed towards her one time star status.

Dolores is taking life at an easy pace now. Her son Joseph lives in Galway, on-off and between Dolores’s house and Dolores’s sister Christina’s house. “He also goes to a place in Galway – his work as he calls it. But he is doing brilliantly.” Her daughter Tara lives in Tuam and works in retail. No doubt, she will be heard singing again even if those touring days on the road are over and I am sure she will enjoy it again but without the pressures and expectations of when she was younger.

While she has a voice she wont stop singing when she gets together with other musicians, especially around Galway and while she is walking with her dogs or maybe doing a bit of gardening and remembering what a fascinating life she has had with all its vicissitudes, what pleasure she has given to millions as she shared her wonderful talent, all helped by a great sense of humour and always a proud Galway woman..

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