Relativity was a groundbreaking Celtic super group that played traditional Irish and Scottish music with a new edge” as well as original tunes.
It tied together the talents of some of the best Irish and Scottish contemporary folk musicians, featuring members from The Bothy Band (Micheal O Domhnaill and Triona Ni Dhomhnaill) and Silly Wizard (Johnny and Phil Cunningham).
Several members of the band went on to create another band called Nightnoise which became very popular.
Johnny Cunningham – fiddle
Micheal O Domhnaill – guitar
Phil Cunningham – accordion, keyboards
Triona Ni Dhomhnaill – vocals, keyboards
Johnny Cunningham was born in Portobello, Scotland on August 27 1957. He played fiddle since the age of seven and was known for his lightning-fast reels and hauntingly beautiful Scottish airs. He also delighted audiences worldwide with his wry humor and stories.
Johnny Cunningham was a founding member of Silly Wizard, the group that spearheaded the Scottish side of the Celtic revival in the 1970s and 1980s. He toured with his brother Phil Cunningham both as a duo and with the Celtic supergroup Relativity that also featured Micheal O’Domhnaill and Triona Ni Dhomhnaill of The Bothy Band.
Johnny not only enjoyed a successful career as a solo performer but was also greatly in demand as an award-winning record producer. Among other ventures he toured with blues-guitarist Bonnie Raitt, contemporary singer-songwriter and author Bill Morrissey and crossed over into the world of rock, appearing with Hall & Oates. His own alternative band Raindogs made two successful CDs for Atlantic/Atco Records Lost Souls (1990) and Border Drive-In Theatre (1991) and toured with artists such as Bob Dylan, Don Henley and Warren Zevon.
After completing a four-year stint with the successful Celtic music act Nightnoise, Johnny worked with acclaimed New York-based theater company Mabou Mines on their production “Peter and Wendy.”
Johnny composed the music and lyrics for this new version of J.M. Barrie’s Peter Pan, which enjoyed several sold out runs including the Spoleto Arts Festival in Charleston S.C. in June 1996; The Public Theater New York City in September of 1996; and The New Victory Theater on 42nd Street New York City in February 1997. The response of audience and critics alike has been overwhelmingly positive. Thesoundtrack album from the innovative production Peter and Wendy, winner of two OBIE awards was released in a special hardcover package by world music label Alula Records.
Johnny also recorded and produced “La Musgaña Live” on tour in the band’s native Spain for Ediciones Resistencia. In addition he collaborated with Thomas Moore, best selling author of “Care Of The Soul”. The result is a double CD set “The Soul Of Christmas” which through the heart of Celtic culture and Thomas Moore’s readings explores ways to spiritually re-interpret traditional Christmas music and thought.
In his final years Johnny Cunningham toured as part of the Celtic Fiddle Festival and with Irish singer Susan McKeown. He died on the evening of December 15th, 2003.
Silly Wizard with Silly Wizard (1976)
Caledonia’s Hardy Sons with Silly Wizard (1978)
So Many Partings with Silly Wizard (1979)
Against the Storm with Phil Cunningham (Shanachie 198)
Thoughts From Another World (Shanachie 1981)
Fair Warning (Green Linnet 1983)
Live In America, with Silly Wizard (1985)
Golden Golden, with Silly Wizard (1985)
A Glint Of Silver, with Silly Wizard (1986)
Relativity, with Relativity (1986)
Gathering Pace, with Relativity (1987)
Live Wizardry (1988)
Lost Souls, with The Raindogs (1990)
Border Drive-In Theatre, with The Raindogs (1991)
Shadow of Time, with Nightnoise (1993)
Celtic Fiddle Festival, with Celtic Fiddle Festival (1993)
To Warm the Winter’s Night, with Aine Minogue (1995)
White Horse Sessions, with Nightnoise (1997) Peter and Wendy (Alula Records 1998) Celtic Fiddle Festival: Encore, with Celtic Fiddle Festival (1998)
Rendezvous, with Celtic Fiddle Festival (2001) A Winter Talisman, with Susan McKeown (Sheila-na-Gig Music/Caledonian Musicworks 2001)
Live on 11th Street, with Casey Neill Band (2003)
Sweet Liberty, with Susan McKeown (2004)
New York, NY – Several sources confirmed today that the great Scottish fiddler, Johnny Cunningham, passed away on the evening of December 15th 2003. He was 46 years old and died from a heart attack
Johnny leaves behind a great body of work and a huge legacy in Scottish and Celtic music of the late 20th century. He was a founding member of Silly Wizard, and later created other seminal Celtic groups, including Relativity, Nightnoise and The Celtic Fiddle Festival.
Johnny played a large role at Green Linnet, appearing on more than a dozen albums including his solo Fair Warning, as well as producing albums by Cherish the Ladies, Orealis and Brooks Williams. “Johnny was a huge life force, and a brilliant musical intelligence,” says Green Linnet Records owner Wendy Newton. “He was a friend for more than 20 years. A great light has gone from our lives.”
Another person that worked with Johnny for many years, Tom Frouge, Triloka Records’ General manager, and former Green Linnet employee, said today about Johnny: “…extraordinary fiddler, producer, comic wit and human being.” Johnny will be remembered for his musicianship, his compositions, and for his larger-than-life personality. He was beloved on both sides of the Atlantic for his exquisite musicianship as well as for his renowned wit and warmth. An outrageously funny man and a gifted storyteller, he held audiences either rapt in attention at his virtuosic playing, or falling over in laughter at his stories.’
Born in Portobello, Scotland on August 27, 1957, Johnny began playing fiddle at age seven. He was a founding member of legendary Scottish band Silly Wizard, along with his brother Phil on accordion and singer Andy M. Stewart. The band is credited with playing a strong role in Scotland’s traditional music revival. Johnny and Phil also founded Relativity, an acclaimed group with Irish brother-and-sister musicians Tríona and Míchaél Ó Domhnaill of The Bothy Band. He and the Ó Domhnaills later formed the new age group Nightnoise.
Johnny was a member of the renowned Celtic Fiddle Festival with Irish fiddler Kevin Burke and Breton musician Christian Lemaitre, who made three albums together. (The group was scheduled for an American tour in February 2004.) Most recently, Johnny had worked with Irish singer Susan McKeown on a seasonal album called A Winter Talisman. The two had just finished an American tour this week.
A widely-read man, Johnny’s skills and interests were far-ranging. He wrote the music and lyrics for a theatrical version of Peter Pan, “Peter and Wendy,” produced by New York City’s Mabou Mines Theater Company. The musical was a critical and popular success, winning two OBIE awards and touring America as well as Ireland. Alula Records released the soundtrack of Peter and Wendy in 1997.
He founded the rock group The Raindogs in the 1980s, releasing two albums on Atlantic/Atco, and toured with such artists as Bob Dylan, Don Henley, Warren Zevon, Hall & Oates, and Bonnie Raitt. He collaborated with best-selling author Thomas Moore on a CD and book set, “The Soul Of Christmas,” a spiritual exploration of Celtic culture and the Christmas tradition. He also produced such artists as award-winning Irish band Solas.
Johnny resided in New Bedford, Mass. He is survived by his his mother Mary, his sister Laura, his brother Phil, and his grandmother Martha Knowles, all of Scotland.