Harpist for the great Irish band dies at 66:
- Derek Bell, the versatile musician best known for playing harp in the Chieftains, has died in Phoenix. He was 66.
His death was announced Thursday. The cause and time of death were unknown at press time.
Born in Belfast, Northern Ireland, Bell was one of the world’s most renowned interpreters of traditional Celtic music — a fact recognized in 2000 when he was named a Member of the British Empire by Queen Elizabeth.
As a member of the Chieftains, whom he joined in 1972, Bell was honored with six Grammy awards. His skills on oboe, horn, cor anglais, hammer dulcimer, keyboards and other instruments were a key part in the success of the band’s noteworthy collaborations with a wide range of artists, including 1988’s “Irish Heartbeat,” with Van Morrison (news); 1992’s “Another Country,” with stars like Willie Nelson; and 1995’s “The Long Black Veil,” with Mick Jagger (news), Sting and others.
Bell also released a half-dozen solo albums and was a professor of harp at the Belfast Academy of Music.
His death came as a shock, according to a statement released by the Chieftains. The band recently completed a concert and television taping to launch their latest album, “Down the Old Plank Road: The Nashville Sessions,” and to celebrate the band’s 40th anniversary. Bell chose to remain in the United States for what the band said was minor surgery and a routine physical examination.