Phil Lynott, the frontman for the iconic Irish rock band Thin Lizzy, died on this day, January 4, 1986, at Salisbury Infirmary, in Wiltshire, England.
Phil Lynott was born on August 20, 1949, in West Bromwich, England, to an Irish mother and British Guianese father, but returned to Dublin at the age of four where he was raised by his grandmother in Crumlin.
Following a relatively happy childhood, Lynott fronted several bands, most notably Skid Row alongside Gary Moore, before learning the bass guitar and forming Thin Lizzy in 1969. The band had initial success with "Whiskey in the Jar" and then again in the mid-1970s with hits such "The Boys Are Back in Town", "Jailbreak" and "Waiting for an Alibi."
Towards the end of the 1970s, Lynott also embarked upon a solo career and published two books of poetry.
After Thin Lizzy disbanded, he assembled and fronted the band Grand Slam, of which he was the leader until it folded in 1985.
Despite his success in Ireland and the UK, it seems that Lynott was constantly trying to match his success in the United States where “The Boys are Back in Town” had hit the number 12 slot. He never charted higher than number 77 with the 1976 song “Cowboy Song."
According to Thin Lizzy’s Scott Gorham, the frontman had turned increasingly to alcohol or worse. Gorham said, at the time of his death, “I suppose he thought drugs would help him out of the low spots.”
Lynott died from heart failure and pneumonia after having been admitted to Salisbury Hospital in Wiltshire, England on Christmas Day following “a drink and drug binge” at his home. He was survived by his two daughters and an estranged wife. His memorial service was attended by hundreds of mourners and he was buried in Dublin.
After Lynott’s untimely death, Thin Lizzy attempted to continue but ultimately retired in 2012. Several members of the group, including Gorham, now record as Black Star Riders.
Lynott remains a popular figure in the rock world, and in 2005, a statue to his memory was erected in Dublin, just off Grafton Street:
Here are some of Thin Lizzy's most popular songs, all together on an IrishCentral Spotify playlist:
What's your favorite Phil Lynott song? Let us know in the comments!
* Originally published in 2017, updated in January 2022.