- 16 Nov 18
One of the founding members of De Dannan, Alec Finn, has passed away today, November 16th 2018 aged 74.
Taking inspiration from the legendary Tuatha Dé Danann, Irish based folk group De Dannan was founded in 1974 by Alec Finn, Frankie Gavin, Ringo McDonagh and Charlie Piggot.
They released their first album De Dannan in 1975 and went on to earn critical acclaim in addition to bringing Irish folk music to an international stage. Alec Finn was perhaps best known for his unique style of accompaniment on the bouzouki, which can be heard throughout the band's music. In addition to their contributions to Irish Folk music De Dannan are known for serving as the platform for a number of female folk singers such as Dolores Keane, Maura O’Connell and Mary Black.
After the group dissolved, it is unfortunate that the relationship between its members followed suit. Alec copyrighted the name De Dannan, in what may well have been a move to prevent its use separately by any other band member. This led to a legal dispute with Frankie Gavin, who decided in July 2009 that he wanted to revive the name for his musical activities.
The precise legal status of the name may indeed still be uncertain, with Frankie Gavin using it on occasion and Ale and Johnny “Ringo” McDonagh having reformed under the De Dannan banner.
Finn spent most of his life in Galway, where he lived in the 15th century Oranmore Castle along with wife, artist Leonie King, and their family.
Since the news of Alec's passing this morning, tributes have been coming in from key figures in Irish music and society.
"De Dannan were one of the truly great Irish folk and traditional bands,” Hot Press editor Niall Stokes said. “And Alex Finn was a towering presence – literally and metaphorically – within the group. He was one of the early pioneers of the bouzouki being used in an Irish folk context and was rightly revered for his unique style. The original line-up of De Dannan, with Alec alongside Johnny “Ringo" McDonagh on bodhrán, Frankie Gavin on fiddle and Charlie Piggott on banjo, was magnificent.
"The band went through many variations, with outstanding musicians like Jackie Daly and Máirtín O’Connor, among many others joining and leaving. De Dannan brought to the fore some of Ireland’s finest women singers, with Maura O’Connell, Dolores Keane, Mary Black and Eleanor Shanley all having starred with them at different times. And particularly from The Mist Covered Mountain in 1980 onwards, their albums were rightly seen as events, which might just change to course of traditional music – which on occasion they did.
“Throughout the band’s existence, until they split in 2003, Alec Finn provided a key part of the wonderful fabric of their music, with his gorgeous counter-points and subtle, rhythmic flavourings adding extraordinary nuance to the tunes and the melodies. It is a measure of his immense talent that he was a core member of one of the greatest of all traditional groups. That legacy will live long into the future."
President Michael D. Higgins also commented on Finn's contribution to Irish music in a statement this morning:
"All those who love Irish music will have heard with great sadness the news of the passing of Alec Finn".
"Alec Finn, an enormously talented musician and an influential bouzouki player, and founding member of De Danann, helped bring Irish music to the attention of a global audience. Proud of his family’s roots in Galway, Alec Finn grew up with music, and when his own talent combined with those of Frankie Gavin, Johnny McDonagh, Charlie Piggott and Dolores Keane, De Danann was born."
"From their early beginnings in An Spidéal and Galway City, De Danann grew to become one of the most significant and best loved representatives of Irish music at its best. Alec Finn was also a distinguished solo artist and session musician, playing on a variety of string instruments, but always bringing his famed sensitivity and skill to every performance. It has been a privilege to know Alec Finn. Sabina and I send our deepest condolences to his family, colleagues and friends, in the full knowledge that Alec Finn’s music will live on and continue to inspire countless people around the world."