how addiction destroyed Ireland’s forgotten rock genius

Phil Lynott grew up in Ireland in the 1970s and was our local rock god. We weren’t exactly spoiled for choice, to be fair. Belfast-born Van Morrison was always out of reach and operated on an ethereal plane of its own. Rory Gallagher was an incredible player, but there was something nondescript about him, like a farmer with an electric guitar.

Bob Geldof later kidnapped punk rock and made us feel that it was possible for an Irish Chancellor to take over the world. Then came U2 and the roar of the Celtic tiger. Since then, there has been a flood of rocking Irish and women, but there was something unique, something different, something strange about Lynott that made him stand out.

Tall, black, elegant, always nicely dressed, he was almost unbelievably cool when it really wasn’t considered cool to be Irish. Yet the Celtic vortices of Thin Lizzy’s groundbreaking folk-rock song Whiskey in the Jar and Lynott’s broad Dublin brogue and sparkling, friendly stage presence identified him as one of the people.

If you were to do a straw poll in Ireland to nominate the greatest local rock star of all time, Phil Lynott would still stay ahead after all this time. He’s got Bono’s voice anyway. “He was a great front man,” says the U2 singer. “When lyric, musical skills have to be combined with show manner, attitude, style – if this is your version of rock ‘n’ roll – there is no getting around Phil Lynott. He’s up in the tree. ”

It is 34 years since Lynott died in sad circumstances in January 1986: his creativity at low tide, his health from heroin, cocaine and alcohol. He was 36 years old.

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