June 21, 2022 (CHICAGO) - Dennis Cahill, an American guitarist renowned in the world of Irish traditional music, passed away on Monday, June 20, after an extended illness. He was 68.
Cahill was best known for his genre-defining duo with Irish fiddler Martin Hayes, with whom he toured the world and recorded three albums on Green Linnet Records. His guitar accompaniment style was considered groundbreaking in Irish music.
With Hayes, he was also a founding member of The Gloaming, a Meteor Prize-winning Irish-American group.
"Dennis has been a very big part of my life for the past thirty five years," Hayes said today. "As a musician and as a friend I will miss him terribly. His beautiful musical ideas will echo far into the future and his friendship will live on in my heart. He impacted my life and expanded my musical horizon. I was lucky to have known him, to have had him as a friend and to have had the privilege of making music with him for so many years."
Irish President Higgins paid tribute to Cahill today, saying, "it is with great sadness that those with a love of traditional Irish music across Ireland, his native Chicago and around the world will have heard of the death of Dennis Cahill. Dennis brought a unique and innovative style to his guitar playing, while being deeply respectful of the essence of traditional Irish music. He and Martin Hayes explored new musical territory and helped create a phenomenal interest in traditional music among a new generation of people both within Ireland and across the world."
Cahill was born and raised in Chicago to parents from County Kerry, Ireland. He studied classical guitar at the Chicago Music College, and was well known on the local music scene, playing folk, rock, and blues. He met Hayes in Chicago in the 1980s, where they first turned their hand to the experimental Celtic-rock-fusion group Midnight Court.
Later, Cahill and Hayes would perform for President Obama in Washington, for President of Ireland Michael D Higgins at the Royal Albert Hall in London, and for the European Union in Brussels. The duo collaborated with a wide range of artists including jazz musicians Bill Frisell and Cassandra Wilson, country music star Ricky Skaggs, Spanish composer Jordi Savall, the Irish Chamber Orchestra, and Sting.
Writing in The New York Times, Ann Powers described Hayes and Cahill as "stripping old reels and jigs, leaving space for whispered blue notes...a Celtic complement to Steve Reich's quartets or Miles Davis's 'Sketches of Spain'. Simply exquisite."
Cahill worked with numerous Irish and Irish-American artists including Jimmy Keane and Liz Carroll. He was also a record producer and art photographer.
Cahill is survived by his wife, Mary Joyce, and stepdaughter Clionadh.
The Tributes are many: Here is what Jimmy Keane had to say: