Seán Keane was a fiddle player for the Irish folk band The Chieftains and a virtuoso musician who helped keep the traditional musical legacy of his native Ireland alive.
Seán Keane’s legacy
Growing up in Drimnagh outside of Dublin, Seán Keane was immersed in music from an early age. Both his mother and father played the fiddle, and they often hosted traveling musicians in their home. By the time The Chieftains were formed in 1962 by Paddy Moloney (1938–2021), Seán Potts (1930–2014), and Michael Tubridy, the Keane household was already well-known in the Irish music scene.
Keane played with Ceoltóirí Chualann and the Castle Céilí Band in the early ‘60s, then joined The Chieftains in 1968, where he would forge his legacy. He was a virtuoso player who preferred to rely on subtly over showmanship. Keane and the group helped bring traditional Irish music to a worldwide audience, and in turn kept the sound alive for new generations. They won six Grammys and earned Lifetime Achievement honors at the 2002 BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards.
In addition to his work with The Chieftains, Keane recorded three solo albums and several collaborations. A documentary about his life and influence, “Seán Keane: The Portrait of an Artist,” was released in 2022.
“Music was almost the first sound my brother and I were aware of. There were only the two of us, and when we’d go to bed every night, there was music. The sound of fiddles or my uncle playing the pipes. It was taken for granted in our home.”—Hot Press, 2000
Tributes to Seán Keane
Full obituary: The Irish Times