A tribute album

President pays tribute to Joe Burke, 81

“The Traditional Music of Ireland" is one of a string of acclaimed solo albums released by Joe Burke over the years.

By Daniel Neely

Last Saturday we were met with the death of the great Joe Burke. He was 81. A legend from Kilnadeema, Co. Galway, Burke was one of the music’s most important button accordion players and certainly one of its most loved personalities. He appeared on several extremely influential albums, including “A Tribute to Michael Coleman,” “The Funny Reel” (with Andy McGann and Felix Dolan), and “Two Champions” (with Sean Maguire), and a string of widely acclaimed solo albums, including “Galway’s Own” and “The Traditional Music of Ireland.”

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Few musicians are as widely acclaimed in their own lifetime, and this acclaim will surely grow as forthcoming generations discover his music. Burke was a singular character and his place in the music’s history will prove indelible. With his passing, another giant is gone. If you have a few moments, dig back into your Joe Burke records (or find something online) and have a listen to a thing or two – you’ll be happy you did.

President Michael D. Higgins paid tribute to Joe Burke, saying the news "will have saddened countless music lovers.”

"His legacy, not only the great archive of his music but also the love for music that he kindled among countless young musicians, will continue to inspire.

"Sabina and I send our condolences to Ann Conroy Burke, to his family and friends, and to all those whose hearts he touched."

Joe Burke kindled a love for music “among countless young musicians,” President Higgins said in tribute.

The Irish Traditional Music Archive said Burke will be "forever remembered as one of the most influential accordion players of his time. His lifelong passion for Irish traditional music was infectious to anyone who had the good fortune to speak or play with him.

"As well as being an outstanding traditional musician, he was extremely knowledgeable about all aspects of the music, its history and development,” it said. “In addition to the release of many outstanding recordings, his long and productive career included performance, teaching, and the presenting of concerts and programmes on both radio and television."