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Planxty: Wikis


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Origin Kildare/Dublin, Ireland
Genres Traditional
Years active 1972 – 1983, 2004 – Present
Associated acts Christy Moore

Planxty is an Irish folk music band formed in the 1970s, consisting initially of Christy Moore (vocals, acoustic guitar, bodhrán), Dónal Lunny (bouzouki, guitars), Andy Irvine (vocals, mandolin, mandola, bouzouki, hurdy-gurdy, harmonica), and Liam O'Flynn (uilleann pipes, tin whistle). Subsequently Johnny Moynihan, Matt Molloy (flute) and, briefly, Paul Brady were also members.

The name "Planxty" comes from a word used by the classic harper Turlough O'Carolan in many of his works, and is thought to mean a tribute to a particular person ("Planxty Irwin", for example, being a tribute to Colonel John Irwin of Sligo). "Planxty" is believed to be a corruption of the Irish word and popular toast "sláinte", meaning "good health". Others claim that the word is not Irish in origin but comes from the Latin "plangere," meaning to strike or beat. It is also believed that its origin may stem from the Irish phrase "phlean on ti" meaning "from the house of". During the penal law era of Ireland's history songs sung in Irish were outlawed and it is believed that the use of the phrase "Planxty" followed by the name of the composer was to disguise the true identity of the composer (it being assumed that Planxty was the first name of the composer) while still giving them credit for the song. Another possible explanation is that it is derived from the Latin Planctus, a medieval lament.


In 1972 Christy Moore released his second album Prosperous, which was recorded in a house in the village of the same name and featured his old schoolmate Dónal Lunny, along with Andy Irvine (who'd been working as a duo with Lunny), and Liam O'Flynn (with whom both Moore and Lunny had played at local sessions). After recording Prosperous, they formed Planxty. The group's first major performance, opening for Donovan in Galway, was a huge success. Neither the audience nor the band knowing what to expect, both were pleasantly surprised. Irvine, unable to see the audience through the lighting, was worried that the crowd was on the verge of rioting. It took him several minutes to realise what he was hearing was enthusiasm. (On the 2004 retrospective, The Christy Moore Box Set, a rough quality recording of the song "Raggle Taggle Gypsy" was included, complete with audience's reaction.)

A formative influence on Planxty and in particular on Christy Moore was the singing of Irish Traveller John "Jacko" Reilly who hailed from Boyle, Co. Roscommon. It was from Reilly that Moore learned "The Raggle Taggle Gypsy," which was recorded on the first Planxty album, in addition to "The Well Below the Valley" and "As I Roved Out," which appeared on The Well Below the Valley. Christy later dipped into Reilly's songbook again for an updated version of the lengthy ballad "Lord Baker," which was featured on Planxty's 1983 album "Words & Music." ("Baker" appears to be a mondegreen for the "Beichan" of earlier versions.)

Planxty released the highly acclaimed single, The Cliffs of Dooneen, after which they were promptly signed to an exclusive contract in conjunction with Polydor Records. The bandmembers, inexperienced in the world of business, signed a contract for £30,000, but for six albums, and with a low royalty percentage. (They were never to make much money from album sales, and were substantially in debt by the time the group dissolved.)

The group became very popular in the next few years in Ireland, Britain and Europe, and they recorded two more albums in the following two years. After that they split up, and a compilation called The Planxty Collection was released. As time passed, the personnel changed - Johnny Moynihan replaced Dónal Lunny in July 1973, and Paul Brady stepped in for Christy Moore in 1974.

The four original members of Planxty reunited in 1979. They recorded three albums, and made several changes and additions to their lineup, most notably the addition of Matt Molloy, flautist from the Bothy Band, later of The Chieftains.

Planxty were chosen to perform as the interval act at the Eurovision Song Contest 1981, held in Dublin. The piece they performed was "Timedance", which depicted the history of Irish music, going back to neolithic times. This was later seen as a precursor to "Riverdance".

In 1983, Dónal Lunny and Christy Moore left to concentrate on Moving Hearts, with Andy Irvine and Liam O'Flynn pursuing separate careers (the former in the band Patrick Street).

Planxty reunited over two decades later for a low-key show in Lisdoonvarna, which led to additional shows in Dublin, Belfast and County Clare in 2004, and the release of "Live 2004" on DVD and CD. Broadcaster and journalist Leagues O'Toole documented the band in the biography The Humours of Planxty, which was published by Hodder Headline in 2006.



  • Irvine, Andy Aiming For The Heart - Poetic Songs From Ireland, Heupferd Musik, 1988, ISBN 3923445016
  • O'Toole, Leagues The Humours of Planxty, Hachette Books Ireland, 2006, ISBN 0340837977
  • Planxty (songbook), 1976

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