Traditional musician Joe Burke dies aged 81

President Higgins leads tributes to the ‘distinguished and influential’ accordion player

Joe Burke in 1998. File photograph: Frank Miller

Joe Burke in 1998. File photograph: Frank Miller


The death has occurred of legendary traditional musician Joe Burke, with President Michael D Higgins leading tributes to the influential accordion player.

Mr Burke, who was originally from Co Galway, was aged 81 years at the time of his death and had performed and recorded music for over 50 years, being named traditional musician of the year in 1970 and 1997.

“The news of the death of Joe Burke, distinguished and influential accordion player, will have saddened countless music lovers and fans of traditional Irish music, at home in Ireland and much further afield,” President Higgins said.

“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.”


Mr Burke, Kilnadeema, Loughrea, was married to musician Ann Conroy Burke and played a variety of instruments including the tin whistle, flute, fiddle and uilleann pipes, but was famed for his button accordion playing.

The Irish Traditional Music Archive said it “greatly regrets” the death of Mr Burke, describing him as “an outstanding traditional musician [who] was extremely knowledgeable about all aspects of the music, its history and development”.

“Joe 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,” 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.”