Philip Parris "Phil" Lynott (pron.: /ˈlaɪnət/; 20 August 1949 – 4 January 1986) was an Irish singer and musician who is best known for being the founding member, principal songwriter, lead vocalist and bassist of the Irish rock band Thin Lizzy.
Growing up in Dublin in the 1960s, Lynott fronted several bands as a lead vocalist, most notably Skid Row alongside Gary Moore, before learning the bass guitar and forming Thin Lizzy in 1969. After initial success with Whiskey in the Jar, the band found strong commercial success in the mid 1970s with hits such as "The Boys are Back in Town", "Jailbreak" and "Waiting for an Alibi", and became a popular live attraction due to the combination of Lynott's vocal and songwriting skills and the use of dual lead guitars. Towards the end of the 1970s, Lynott also embarked upon a solo career, published two books of poetry, and after Thin Lizzy disbanded, he assembled and fronted the band Grand Slam, of which he was the leader until it folded in 1984.
He subsequently had major UK success with Moore with the song “Out in the Fields”, followed by a minor hit "Nineteen", before his death on 4th January 1986. He remains a popular figure in the rock world, and in 2005, a statue was erected in his memory.
Lynott was born in Hallam Hospital (now Sandwell General Hospital) in West Bromwich (then in Staffordshire), England, and christened at St. Edwards Church in Selly Park, Birmingham. His mother, Philomena (or Phyllis) Lynott (b. 22 October 1930), is Irish, and his father was Cecil Parris, an Afro-Guyanese. Some news and fan-site sources said that he was an Afro-Brazilian, but in an August 2009 interview Parris's wife said that he was from Georgetown, British Guiana. This was confirmed by Philomena Lynott in July 2010. Lynott's mother met Parris in Birmingham in 1948 and they saw each other for a few months, until Parris was transferred to London. Shortly afterwards, Philomena found she was pregnant and, after Philip was born, she moved with her baby to a home for unmarried mothers in Selly Oak, Birmingham. When Parris learned of Philip's birth, he returned to Birmingham and arranged accommodation for Philomena and Philip in the Blackheath area of the city. Her relationship with Parris lasted two more years although he was still working in London and they did not live together. Philomena subsequently moved to Manchester but stayed in touch with Parris and, although she turned down a marriage proposal from him, he agreed to pay towards his son's support.
Lynott was introduced to music by his uncle Timothy's record collection, and became influenced by Tamla Motown and The Mamas and the Papas. He joined his first band, the Black Eagles in 1965 as a lead singer, playing popular covers in local clubs around Dublin. He attended to the Christian Brothers School in Crumlin, where he became friends with Brian Downey, who was later persuaded to join the band from the 'Liffey Beats'. The group fell apart due to the gradual disinterest of manager Joe Smith, particularly after the departure of his two sons, guitarists Danny and Frankie.
Lynott then left the family home and moved into a flat in Clontarf, where he briefly joined 'Kama Sutra'. It was in this band that he learned his frontman skills, and worked out how to interact with an audience. In early 1968, he teamed up with bassist Brendan 'Brush' Shiels to form Skid Row. Shiels also wanted Downey to play drums in the band, but Downey wasn't interested in the band's style, so the job went to Noel Bridgeman instead. The band signed a deal with Ted Carroll, who would later go on to manage Thin Lizzy, and played a variety of covers including Eight Miles High, Hey Jude and several numbers by Jimi Hendrix. Because Lynott did not play an instrument at this point in his career, he instead manipulated his voice through an echo box during instrumental sections. He also took to smearing boot polish under his eyes on stage, which he would continue to do throughout Lizzy's career later on, and regularly performed a mock fight with Shiels onstage to attract the crowd. In mid 1968, guitarist Bernard Cheevers quit to work full time at the Guinness factory in Dublin, and was replaced by Belfast born guitarist Gary Moore.
Despite increased success, and the release of a single, New Faces, Old Places, Shiels became concerned about Lynott's tendency to sing off-key. He then discovered that the problem was with Lynott's tonsils, who subsequently took a leave of absence from the band. By the time he had recovered, Shiels had decided to take over singing lead and reduce the band to a three piece. Feeling guility of having effectively sacked one of his best friends, he taught Lynott how to play bass, figuring it would be easier to learn than a six string guitar, and sold him a Fender Jazz Bass he had bought from Robert Ballagh for £36, and started giving him lessons.
Lynott and Downey quickly put together a new band called 'Orphanage', with guitarist Joe Staunton and bassist Pat Quigley, playing a mixture of original material alongside covers of Bob Dylan, Free and Jeff Beck.
At the end of 2006 a number of Skid Row and Orphanage demo tapes featuring Phil Lynott were discovered. These were his earliest recordings and had been presumed lost for decades.
Lynott with Thin Lizzy in Frankfurt, Germany, 1972
Towards the end of 1969, Lynott and Downey were introduced to guitarist Eric Bell via founding member of Them, keyboardist Eric Wrixon. (Bell had also played in a later line-up of Them). Deciding that Bell was a better guitarist, and with Lynott now confident enough to play bass himself in a band, the four of them formed Thin Lizzy. Wrixon, generally felt superflous to requirements by the others, left after the release of the band's first single, The Farmer in July 1970.
During the band's early years, despite being the singer, bassist and chief songwriter, Lynott was still fairly reserved and introverted on stage, and would stand to one side while the spotlight concentrated on Bell, who was initially regarded as the group's leader. During the recording of the band's second album, Shades of a Blue Orphanage, Lynott very nearly left Thin Lizzy to form a new band with Deep Purple's Ritchie Blackmore and Ian Paice. He decided he would rather build up Lizzy's career from the ground up than jump into another band that had big-name musicians in it. Due to being in dire financial straits, Lizzy did, however, soon afterwards record an album of Deep Purple covers anonymously under the name Funky Junction. Lynott did not sing on the album as he felt his voice was not in the same style as Ian Gillan.
Towards the end of 1972, Thin Lizzy got their first major break in the UK by supporting Slade, then nearing the height of their commercial success. Inspired by Noddy Holder's top hat with mirrors, Lynott decided to attach a mirror to his bass, which he carried over to subsequent tours. On the opening night of the tour, an altercation broke out between Lynott and Slade's manager Chas Chandler, who chastised his lack of stage presence and interaction with the audience, and threatened to throw Lizzy off the tour unless things improved immediately. Lynott subsequently developed his onstage rapport and stage presence that would become familiar over the remainder of the decade Thin Lizzy's first top ten hit was in 1973, with a rock version of the traditional Irish song "Whiskey in the Jar",featuring a cover by Irish artist and friend, Jim Fitzpatrick. However, follow up singles failed to chart, and after the departure of Bell, quickly followed by replacement Moore, and Downey, led Thin Lizzy to near collapse in mid 1974. It was not until the recruitment of guitarists Scott Gorham and Brian Robertson, and the release of Jailbreak in 1976, that made Lynott and Thin Lizzy international superstars on the strength of the album's biggest hit, "The Boys are Back in Town". The song reached the top 10 in the UK, Ireland and Canada, and peaked at No. 12 in the US. Billboard Hot 100 Archive 24 July 1976
On 14 February 1980, Lynott married Caroline Crowther, the daughter of British comedian Leslie Crowther. He met her when she was working for Tony Brainsby in the late 1970s. They had two children: Sarah (b. 19 December 1978 for whom the eponymous 1979 song was written, and Cathleen (b. 29 July 1980 for whom the eponymous 1982 Lynott solo song was written. The marriage fell apart during 1984 after Lynott's increasingly escalating drug use. Lynott also had a son, born in 1968, who had been put up for adoption. In 2003, Macdaragh Lambe learned that Lynott was his biological father, and this was confirmed by Philomena Lynott in a newspaper interview in July 2010.
Lynott's last years were dogged by drug and alcohol dependency leading to his collapse on Christmas Day 1985, at his home in Kew. He was discovered by his mother, who was unaware of his dependency on heroin. She contacted Caroline, who was, and immediately knew the problem was serious. After Caroline drove him to a drug clinic at Clouds House in East Knoyle, near Warminster, he was taken to Salisbury Infirmary where he was diagnosed as suffering from septicaemia. Despite regaining conscious enough to speak to his mother, his condition worsened by the start of the new year and he was put on a respirator. He died of pneumonia and heart failure due to sepsis in the hospital's intensive care unit on 4 January 1986, at the age of 36.
Lynott's funeral was held at St Elizabeth's Church, Richmond on 9th January 1986, with most of Thin Lizzy's ex members in attendence, followed by a second service at Howth Parish Church on 11th. He was buried in St Fintan's Cemetery, Dublin.
Thin Lizzy regrouped for a one-off performance in 1986, with Lynott's friend Bob Geldof taking lead vocals, and subsequently reformed as a touring act in 1996.
On 4th January 1994, exactly eight years after his death, a trust in Lynott's name was formed by his family and close friends, in order to provide scholarships for new musicians, and to make donations to charities and organisations in his memory.
In 2005, a life-size bronze statue of Phil Lynott was unveiled on Harry Street, off Grafton Street in Dublin. The ceremony was attended by former band members Gary Moore, Eric Bell, Brian Robertson, Brian Downey, Scott Gorham, Darren Wharton (keyboards) and by Lynott's mother. The attending Thin Lizzy members paid tribute with a live performance. His grave in St. Fintan's cemetery in Sutton, northeast Dublin, is regularly visited by family, friends and fans.
In April 2007, the 1996 film The Rocker: A Portrait of Phil Lynott, which consisted mainly of archive footage, was released on DVD in the UK
In August 2010, Yellow Pearl was released. This is a collection of songs from Phil Lynott's solo albums, B-Sides and album tracks. The album comes with rare pictures of Phil Lynott as well as an introduction to the album written by Malcolm Dome.
In September 2012, both Lynott's mother and widow objected to Mitt Romney's use of The Boys Are Back In Town during his election camapaign. In an interview with Irish rock magazine Hot Press, Philomena Lynott said, "As far as I am concerned, Mitt Romney's opposition to gay marriage and to civil unions for gays makes him anti-gay – which is not something that Philip would have supported
Phil Lynott in Oslo, Norway, 22 April 1980
|Birth name||Philip Parris Lynott|
|Born||20 August 1949|
West Bromwich, West Midlands
|Origin||Dublin, Republic of Ireland|
|Died||4 January 1986 (aged 36)|
|Genres||Rock, hard rock, pop, heavy metal, folk, psychedelic rock|
|Occupations||Musician, songwriter, producer, poet|
|Instruments||Vocals, bass, keyboards, guitar,harmonica, Irish harp,percussion|
|Labels||Vertigo, Warner Bros. (US)|
|Associated acts||Thin Lizzy, Gary Moore, Wild Horses, The Greedies, Skid Row, Grand Slam, John Sykes,Midge Ure|
|Fender Precision Bass|