Irish singer, songwriter, and bassist Phil Lynott of Thin Lizzy died of heart failure and pneumonia on 4th January 1986 after being in a coma for eight days following a drug overdose.
Lynott’s last few years had been dogged by drink and drug dependency, leading to his collapse at home on Christmas Day in 1985. The singer’s estranged wife Caroline, the daughter of TV celebrity Leslie Crowther, had rushed to help him, driving over 100 miles from her house in Bath to his mansion in Kew. Caroline drove him to a specialist drugs clinic where doctors recommended that he should be admitted to Salisbury Infirmary, where he was diagnosed as suffering from septicemia. He later died of pneumonia and multiple organ failures due to sepsis in the hospital’s intensive care unit at the age of 36.
Lynott had something unique, an alien mystique; he was different. With his big Afro and stylish swagger, the tall black Irishman dressed in what sometimes looked like Jimi Hendrix’s cast-offs. He was almost impossibly cool.
He was born in Birmingham, England on August 20, 1949, to a Brazilian father and Irish mother. His father, Parris, left when Phil was three weeks old, leaving his mother to raise a black baby in Catholic Ireland in the ’50s. His mother later moved to Manchester (where she ran a small hotel), leaving Phil with his grandmother.
In the mid-’60s, Phil started writing songs and playing in bands in and around the Dublin area. His first band was the Black Eagles, which he left to join Kama Sutra, and then Skid Row. He formed Thin Lizzy with friends Brian Downey and Eric Bell in 1969, which quickly became recognised as one of the top Irish bands. They were spotted by Decca Records during a gig and offered a record deal.
Lizzy first found fame in the 1970s with their breakthrough folk-rock hit, “Whiskey In The Jar,” their version of the traditional Irish song. With Lynott’s broad Dublin brogue, they stood out from everything else in the charts. The band were booked to tour the UK supporting Slade and their label Decca needed a song out for radio, so released the track against the band’s wishes. But it gave them their first hit peaking at #6 on the UK charts.
Lizzy are remembered for other hits like “The Boys Are Back in Town” (released in 1976), “Don’t Believe A Word,” and “Dancing in the Moonlight.” The band underwent a series of changes in 1974 when the arrival of guitarists Brian Robertson and Scott Gorham stabilized the lineup as the band entered their most productive phase with the top-selling album Jailbreak in 1976. Thin Lizzy made their mark as one of the best live acts ever; their 1978 live album Live and Dangerous was voted as the best live rock album of all time by Classic Rock magazine in 2004.
I don’t know why, but Lynott hasn’t quite attained the status of other fallen idols, such as Jimi Hendrix, Jim Morrison, and Kurt Cobain. Maybe he was never that famous or taken that seriously, which is a shame as Phil was a true original with an amazing gift as a singer, songwriter, and performer.
A life-size bronze statue of Phil Lynott was unveiled on Harry Street in Dublin in 2005. The ceremony was attended by former band members Gary Moore, Eric Bell, Brian Robertson, Brian Downey, Scott Gorham, and by Lynott’s mother.
Important Dates In The Life Of Thin Lizzy:
23 Jan 2016
Scottish musician Jimmy Bain died aged 68 while in his cabin on Def Leppard's "Hysteria on the High Seas" cruise. The cause of death was determined to be lung cancer. Bain was best known for playing bass guitar in the bands Rainbow and Dio, he also worked with Thin Lizzy frontman Phil Lynott, co-writing on his solo albums as well as Ian Hunter, Gary Moore and John Cale.
10 May 2013
Two men were arrested in Dublin after the city centre statue of Phil Lynott was pushed over and seriously damaged. The memorial to the Thin Lizzy icon has been removed from its Harry Street location for repairs, and the men were later released without charge. The life-size bronze sculpture was unveiled in 2005 and had become a tourist destination and landmark since then.
6 Feb 2011
Irish guitarist and singer Gary Moore died aged 58 in his sleep of a heart attack in his hotel room while on holiday in Estepona, Spain. Moore had been a member of Skid Row, Thin Lizzy, and Colosseum II, before going solo, scoring the 1979 UK No.8 single 'Parisienne Walkways'. Moore's greatest influence in the early days was guitarist Peter Green of Fleetwood Mac, who was a mentor to Moore when performing in Dublin. His 1990 album Still Got the Blues featured contributions from Albert King, Albert Collins, and George Harrison.
24 Nov 2008
English drummer Michael Lee died from a seizure aged 39. Lee had worked with Robert Plant, Jimmy Page, Little Angels, The Cult, Ian Gillan, Echo & The Bunnymen, The Quireboys and Thin Lizzy.
19 Aug 2005
A life-size bronze statue designed by Paul Daly of Phil Lynott was unveiled on Harry Street in Dublin. The ceremony was attended by his former Thin Lizzy band members Gary Moore, Brian Robertson and Scott Gorham. Lynott who died in 1986 aged 36 had a string of hits including 'Whiskey in the Jar', 'The Boys are Back in Town', 'Jailbreak' and 'Waiting for an Alibi'.
7 Sep 2002
The Frankie Miller tribute concert was held at Barrowlands in Glasgow, Scotland with all profits going to the Drake Music Project. The Sensational Alex Harvey Band, Nazareth, Gallagher & Lyle, Hamish Stuart, former Thin Lizzy, guitarist Brian Robertson, ex-Genesis singer Ray Wilson and Joe Walsh all appeared. Miller attended the show, but was still recovering from a 1994 brain hemorrhage, and so was unable to join in.
4 Jan 1986
Irish singer, songwriter and bassist Phil Lynott of Thin Lizzy died of heart failure and pneumonia after being in a coma for eight days following a drug overdose. With Thin Lizzy he had the 1973 hit 'Whiskey in the Jar', (their version of the traditional Irish song) and hits with ‘The Boys Are Back in Town’, ‘Jailbreak’ and ‘Waiting for an Alibi’. The groups 1978 album 'Live and Dangerous' spent 62 weeks on the UK chart. Lynott fronted several bands as a lead vocalist, including Skid Row alongside Gary Moore. A life-size bronze statue of Phil Lynott was unveiled on Harry Street in Dublin Ireland in 2005.
17 Jul 1979
Gary Moore left Thin Lizzy, during a US tour and was replaced by ex Slick & Rich Kids guitarist Midge Ure.
13 Apr 1979
Thin Lizzy released their ninth studio album Black Rose: A Rock Legend. The album, which featured guitarist Gary Moore, contained the hits 'Do Anything You Want To', 'Waiting For An Alibi' and 'Sarah', which was written with Moore about Lynott's newborn daughter.
2 Jun 1978
Thin Lizzy released the live double album Live And Dangerous. It was recorded in Philadelphia, London and Toronto in 1977, during the tours accompanying the albums Johnny The Fox and Bad Reputation. It peaked at No.2 on the UK album charts, held from the top spot by the Grease soundtrack album. It remained in the charts for 62 weeks and eventually sold 600,000 copies.
26 Aug 1977
Uriah Heep, Thin Lizzy, The Sensational Alex Harvey Band, Eddie and the Hot Rods, Golden Earing, Aerosmith, Doobie Brothers, Hawkwind, Racing Cars, John Miles, Graham Parker, The Enid, No Dice and Frankie Miller's Full House all appeared at the 17th three day Reading Festival, England. A three day ticket cost £7.95.