There weren't too many black Irish rock 'n' roll stars around in the 1970s and 1980s, Phil Lynott aside. The Thin Lizzy frontman and bassist, whose mother was Irish and father, Brazilian, was the first great Irish rock 'n' roller, paving the way for bands such as U2 and the Boomtown Rats. Their classic, "Whiskey and the Jar" has been covered by Metallica, and their album, "Live and Dangerous," was voted Best Live Album of all Time by Classic Rock Magazine in 2004 (although there is some dispute as to exactly how live the album was.) Sadly, like his predecessor Jimi Hendrix, who was a major influence on Thin Lizzy, Lynott succumbed to the excesses of his rock 'n' roll lifestyle, and died from one drink-and-drugs binge too many. At the age of 36, he contracted a serious kidney and liver infection on Christmas Day, before later dying of heart and kidney failure.
"Rock 'n' roll you crucified me, Left me all alone, I never should have turned my back on the old folks back at home." So sings Shane MacGowan on his song. 'The Church of the Holy Spook." It might be a bit premature to describe MacGowan as a rock 'n' roll casualty. But it remains one of the great mysteries of Irish music as to how on earth the Pogues lead singer is still alive and drinking. (One English journalist wrote a travelogue on Ireland called, "Is Shane MacGowan still alive? Travels in Irishry.") MacGowan's drink and drug consumption is legendary: kicked out of school at the age of 14 for possession of drink, he spent six months in rehab four years later for alcohol dependency. Presumably, since then he has looked back. (Although he did fortunately turn his back on heroin, after Sinead O'Connor reported him to the London police.) But don't expect Shane to give up the booze anytime soon.
Rory Gallagher first found fame as guitarist with the Irish band Taste in the late 1960s. In enjoyed massive success in the 1970s, and as a solo artist, he sold around 30 million albums around the world, and is probably one of the greatest Irish guitarists of all time. Indeed, he could be described at the 'first Irish rock star' as the Irish magazine Hotpress put it when Gallagher died at the age in 1995. He was 48 and died from complications after he underwent a liver transplant, the result of years of sustained alcohol abuse.
A founding member of the legendary Irish trad band, The Dubliners, Luke Kelly was a major presence in Irish traditional music for many years, and was at the forefront of the Irish folk musical revival in the 1960s. Some of his versions of Irish classics remain definitive: his interpretation of Patrick Kavanagh's "On Raglan Road" being a prime example. Towards the end of his life, he sufferered from headaches and forgetfulness, which were attributed to his alcoholism and not to the brian tumor which would eventually kill him at the age of 43 in 1984.
It might be a considerable stretch to describe Tim Buckley as "Irish", but the singer did have some Irish heritage (if that qualifies him for the list). His father, also called Tim, was apparently the descendant of a hedge master from Co. Cork. The singer and guitarist achieved some degree of fame in the late 1960s before his stardom began to fade in the early 1970s. Fate prevented an attempted comeback from succeeding: after trying to get rid of his drug dependency, he got into an argument with a friend following a concert. To placate Buckley, the friend offered him a quantity of heroin; Buckley snorted the lot and it killed him.