A389 Recordings/Sumerian Records Spring is upon us and its gearing up to be…
- Posted on Feb 11th 2011 4:30PM by James Sullivan
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Or at least he was of mixed heritage. Born to an Irish mother and an Afro-Guyanese father, Lynott became one of the most notable black musicians in rock music. His parents split up when he was still young, and his mother had another son and a daughter with different fathers. Lynott, meanwhile, grew up with his grandmother in Dublin.
After forming local bands with names such as Orphanage and the Black Eagles, Lynott and his childhood friend, drummer Brian Downey, were asked by Eric Bell and Eric Wrixon, two former members of Van Morrison's group Them, to start a new band. At first, Lynott just played bass in Thin Lizzy, but he soon took creative control of the group. Eric Bell left in 1974, and the band had a revolving door for guitarists over the next decade, including Pink Floyd associate Snowy White and Gary Moore, who died in Spain in February 2011.
Thin Lizzy's first single, 'The Farmer,' sold just 283 of its 500 copies. But the band soon began to earn some recognition, touring with Slade and recording an uncredited album of Deep Purple covers. They became celebrities in the UK when Lynott's version of the traditional ballad 'Whiskey in the Jar' hit No. 1 in Ireland. The song stayed in the top spot for 17 weeks.
The band broke big in America a few years later with 'The Boys Are Back in Town,' which was followed by another hard-rock staple, 'Jailbreak.' Though they toured the States with Queen, by the late 1970s Lynott was more interested in punk than the indulgent arrangements of "classic" hard rockers. "We were like the street-punk guys," recalled guitarist Scott Gorham, who joined the group in 1974. Lynott befriended hard-living punks like Malcolm Owen of the Ruts (who would die of an overdose), and he recorded a Christmas single, 'A Merry Jingle,' with Steve Jones and Paul Cook of the Sex Pistols.
By the '80s, Lynott was working on his own solo records, collaborating with a wide range of musicians, from Mark Knopfler and Huey Lewis to onetime Thin Lizzy member Midge Ure. His main band, meanwhile, was self-imploding; there were real brawls, and Gorham took a temporary leave due to drug-induced exhaustion. "A once-brilliant band was turning to crap before my very eyes," lamented one of the band's managers.
The hard-boozing, hard-drugging Lynott, who might have been the biggest abuser of them all, finally collapsed, on Christmas Day, 1985, of an overdose. His estranged wife took him for help, and he was admitted to intensive care with liver and kidney infections. Lynott died of heart failure 10 days later. He was 36.
The guitarist's last release,a few weeks before his death, was a single called 'Nineteen,' recorded with producer Paul Hardcastle. Oddly, the song had nothing to do with Hardcastle's own hit single of the same name.
When the rocker got married in 1980, he and Caroline already had a one-year old baby together, and she was pregnant with another child. Her father, the minstrel comic, joked about it at the wedding. When Lynott asked for his daughter's hand in marriage, he said, he replied, "Why not? You've had everything else."