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James Galway gained fame as one of Ireland's most popular flautists in the late '70s. Over the next two decades, Galway's smooth, lightly Celtic instrumental stylings were internationally popular, selling numerous records and earning him several awards.
Galway began playing music with penny whistles and mouth-organs as a child, soon moving to flute. At the age of ten, he was the winner of all three classes of the Irish Flute Championships, which earned him a BBC radio session, as well as a spot in the Belfast Youth Orchestra. Galway earned scholarships first at London's Guildhall School of Music, then the Paris Conservatoire; he would occasionally busk on the subways to earn extra money.
After spending some time at Sadlers Wells, Galway became the Berlin Philharmonic's principal flautist in 1969. His time with the orchestra was popular, which led his manager, Michael Emerson, to persuade the flautist to go solo in 1975. Galway was instantly successful as a solo artist, both as a live performer and a recording artist. He was soon playing 120 concerts a year, as well as recording both both classical and popular albums. In 1978, his version of John Denver's "Annie's Song" became an international hit. While his pop recordings were commercially successful, his classical albums were warmly recepted by critics and peers alike, as his records of Mozart and Vivaldi compositions won awards.
Though he wasn't able to replicate the success of "Annie's Song" in the '80s, he continued to sell out concerts around the world well into the '90s and his infrequent records have proven nearly as successful.