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Philip Parris "Phil" Lynott (20 August 1949 – 4 January 1986) was an Irish singer, bassist, musician, and songwriter, who first came to prominence as the frontman of Thin Lizzy. He released two solo albums and also formed and fronted the band Grand Slam.
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 (aka Phyllis) Lynott, was Irish, and his father was Cecil Parris, an Afro-South American, some sources more specifically stating that he was an African-Brazilian. 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. Philomena's relationship with Parris lasted a further two years although he was still working in London and they did not live together. The Lynotts subsequently moved to Manchester and Philomena stayed in touch with Parris, and although she turned down a proposal of marriage from him, he agreed to pay towards Philip's upkeep. An interview with Parris' wife in August 2009, however, stated that Parris was from Georgetown, British Guiana, and that he and Philomena later had a daughter and a second son who were both given up for adoption. Philomena's own account of the story does not concur with regard to any other children. Philip Lynott did not meet his father again until the late 1970s.
When Philip was four years old, he went to live with his grandmother Sarah in Crumlin, Dublin, while his mother stayed in Manchester.
In the mid 1960s, Lynott began singing in his first band, the Black Eagles. Around this time, he befriended Brian Downey, who was later persuaded to join the band from the 'Liffey Beats'. Before long the Black Eagles broke up and Lynott joined 'Kama Sutra' before settling into a short stint singing in Skid Row (not to be confused with an American band of the same name), a band that featured guitarist Gary Moore, bassist Brendan 'Brush' Shiels and drummer Noel Bridgeman. Lynott was let go by Skid Row following a temporary absence to have his tonsils removed. Lynott had acquired a bass guitar and Shiels gave him some lessons to help him on his way. Lynott and Downey quickly put together a new band titled 'Orphanage' with guitarist John Stanton and bassist Pat Quigley. 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.
In 1969, Lynott and Downey quit Orphanage to form Thin Lizzy with guitarist Eric Bell and keyboard player Eric Wrixon (both ex-Them, but from different line-ups). Lynott was the main songwriter for Thin Lizzy, as well as the lead singer and bassist. Their 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. Their biggest international hit, the 1976 song "The Boys are Back in Town", featured Lynott's lead vocals. The song reached the top 10 in the UK, Ireland and Canada, and peaked at #12 in the US.
In 1978, he was featured in Jeff Wayne's Musical Version of The War of the Worlds, singing and speaking the role of The Parson. In 1979, under the name "The Greedies" (originally "The Greedy Bastards", but shortened for obvious reasons), he recorded a Christmas single, "A Merry Jingle," featuring other members of Thin Lizzy as well as Steve Jones and Paul Cook of the Sex Pistols. The previous year he had performed alongside Jones and Cook on Johnny Thunders's solo album "So Alone".
In 1980, though Thin Lizzy were still enjoying considerable success, Phil Lynott launched a solo career with the album, Solo in Soho: this was a Top 30 UK album and yielded two hit singles that year, "Dear Miss Lonelyhearts" and "King's Call". The latter was a tribute to Elvis Presley, and featured Mark Knopfler on guitar. His second solo venture, The Philip Lynott Album was a chart flop, despite the presence of the single "Old Town". The song "Yellow Pearl" (1982), was a #14 hit in the UK and became the theme tune to Top Of The Pops.
In 1980, he married Caroline Crowther, the daughter of British comedian Leslie Crowther. The couple had two children - Sarah, for whom the 1979 song of the same title was written, and Cathleen.
In 1983, Thin Lizzy disbanded. Later that year, Lynott recorded a rock'n'roll medley single, "We Are The Boys (Who Make All The Noise)" with Roy Wood, Chas Hodges, and John Coghlan. Phil regularly collaborated with former bandmate blues/rock guitarist Gary Moore on a number of tracks including the singles "Out in the Fields" (a No. 5 UK hit in 1985), his highest-charting single ever, "Parisienne Walkways" (a UK no. 8 hit in 1978), "Back On The Streets" and "Spanish Guitar" in 1979.
In 1984, he formed a new band, Grand Slam - with Doish Nagle, Laurence Archer, Robbie Brennan, and Mark Stanway.
His last single, "Nineteen", released a few weeks before his death, was produced by Paul Hardcastle. It bore no relation to the producer's chart-topping single of the same title some months earlier.
Lynott's last years were dogged by drug and alcohol dependency leading to his collapse on the night of 25 December 1985 at his home in Kew. After his estranged wife Caroline drove him to a drug clinic, he was taken to Salisbury hospital where he was diagnosed as suffering from a kidney and liver infection. He died of heart failure and pneumonia in the hospital intensive care unit on 4 January 1986 aged 36.
In 2005, a life-size bronze statue of Phil Lynott was unveiled on Harry Street, off Grafton Street, Dublin. The ceremony was attended by former band members Eric Bell, Gary Moore, Brian Robertson, Brian Downey, and Scott Gorham, 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 is regularly visited by family, friends, and fans.
In April 2007, The Rocker: A Portrait of Phil Lynott was released on DVD in the UK.