Christy Moore: One Voice: My Life in Song

Reprinted from Green man Review.

I know the minds behind them, they’re riddled full of holes,
Not to be trusted with their hands at the controls.
Their eyesight is twisted by the glory of their careers
The heaped praise of flattery is music to their ears.
To listen to them talk about how it hasn’t happened yet
It’s like playing Hiroshima, Nagasaki, Russian Roulette.

lyric excerpt from ‘Hiroshima, Nagasaki, Russian Roulette’

Me dear wife Brigid has put the 1981 self-titled debut album from the Moving Hearts on. (They were the second band after Horslips that fused traditional and rock music — additionally, they added jazz as an element of their material.) Christy’s singing the lyrics of the song “Hiroshima Nagasaki Russian Roulette” as I write these words — his angry but soft voice gives these words an emotional impact that they might not otherwise have.

Planxty and Moving Hearts are truly two of the greatest groups ever in Irish music, and what connects them is the genius of Christy Moore. Now Christy has written a unique bio of himself and his music. One Voice: My Life in Song is not your typical ‘look, I’m a musician’ biography. Christy has centered it on the music he considers important, both his creations and those of other songwriters that he considers germane to his craft. A fine singer and songwriter, Christy Moore is regarded by both musicians and fans alike as the artist most responsible for the reawakening of interest in Irish folk music over the last decade or so.

Born in 1945 in Newbridge, located in the heart of County Kildare, Christy’s musical awareness was first kindled at home where his mother’s love of music brought him into contact with many of the finest local traditional musicians. According to One Voice: My Life in Song, Christy first became active in college singing in the choir and being involved in opera. But in the mid-sixties, he formed a duo with schoolmate Donal Lunny which was called The Rakes of Kildare.

After a time in England performing in pubs and clubs, gathering songs and material and sharpening his already considerable musical skills, he recorded his first album, Paddy on the Road. Since then he has continuously explored new ways of approaching his craft, founding the legendary band Planxty and later the cutting edge Moving Hearts. He now pursues a solo career which, because of ill health, does not include — more’s the pity — live performances, but he continues to produce brilliant albums.

Let the grass grow green over the brewery tonight,
It’ll never come between the darkness and the light.
There is no pain that can’t be eased,
By the devil’s holy water and the rosary beads.

Excerpt from ‘Faithful Departed’

One Voice: My Life in Song, an autobiography done in part as a reaction to several rumored unauthorized biographies that were in the works, is a unique approach to what’s often a tired genre. The lyrics to some 250 songs from Christy’s career are the heart of the bio. He notes in the book that he began this writing project some ten years ago by writing down the lyrics of those songs that he considered most important to him and then he annotated each of them by describing their significance and what they mean personally to him. By exploring different times and themes, he has woven together reflections and stories from every period of his life. As Christy says in this book, “Here are my favourite songs and the stories that go with them, how they have sustained me and carried me around the world. From the dizzy heights of the Palace Cinema in Newbridge, Co. Kildare, to the lonely citadel of Carnegie Hall in New York, I’ve performed these songs 5,000 times, each time like the first, never to sing the last.”

Be aware that this narrative is not chronological in any sense, i.e., it leads off with a look at Moving Hearts, the band he created with mate Donal Lunny in 1980! But this autobiography’s about storytelling, not history, so grant him the right to tell the story in his chosen manner. If you enjoy his music, you’ll learn everything you need to know about him here, including why he stopped touring, what performers he likes, and why friends and family are what keep him going. Curl up in your favourite overstuffed chair, grab a mug of tea, and get comfortable — you’ll be there for a long time after the embers in the fireplace die down!

(Hooder & Stoughton, 2000)

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