Walking through the streets of Dublin on any given day from the start of March to the early summer months of 2011, a certain face can be seen peering from the walls and buildings of the city. His afro hair was his trademark, his skin is dark against the white of the paper posters and his body is clad in the unmistakable classic rock garb. And any Irish person should be shamefaced to admit if they did not recognise, the man, the legend...Phil Lynott.
Originally born in Birmingham, England to an Irish mother in 1949, Phil Lynnott moved to Dublin permanently at the age of four with his grandmother where he would stay for the rest of his childhood.
In 1969, Thin Lizzy was formed between Phil, Brian Downey, Eric Bell and Eric Whixton. Thin Lizzy are better known for their cover of Irish hit, ‘Whiskey in the Jar,’ and their own hit song, ‘The Boys are Back in Town.’
Phil married in 1980, leading to the birth of two children, one inspiring the song ‘Sarah.’ He went solo in 1980 also but his solo career was short-lived, not circulating the same success as Thin Lizzy did. In 1983, the successful rock group disbanded, leaving Phillip time to write several poetry books that were published in 1974 and ’77.
Unfortunately, the rock icon spent his last years alive in turmoil of drug and alcohol addiction. He finally collapsed at his home on Christmas Day in 1985 and when he was driven to a drug clinic, diagnosed with septicaemia. He died on 4th January 1686 at 36 years of age.
Despite his tragic death at such a young age, and the breakup of Thin Lizzy, Phil Lynotts legacy has lived on through the years. In 1997, his two poetry books came together in a single edition and then in 2005, a life sized statue of the legend himself was unveiled on Harry Street, Dublin where it still stands today, regularly visited by tourists and fans alike.
The ‘Phil Lynott exhibition’ was opened in Dublin in March 2011. After six weeks of searching, the location was finally decided upon by the team- the top floor of St. Stephen’s Green Shopping Centre, where a large collection of his work both solo and with Thin Lizzy is displayed for all to see. The exhibition follows the path of Phil’s life in memorabilia, gradually going from light to darkness to indicate the struggles he coped with before his premature death in 1986. It is both haunting and beautiful.
Immediately as you enter the exhibition room, you are blasted with a beautiful lit up ‘Thin Lizzy’ model. From the stereos within the black clothed walls, the voice of Phil Lynott as ‘The Phil Lynott Band’ and ‘Thin Lizzy’ float out to act as background music to the tour of Phil’s life. It is almost haunting as it feels his spirit is within the room along with the childhood photographs, the letters and postcards to his mother and friends and even the old bicycle he used to ride when he was boy which is hanging from the ceiling.
The exhibition is laid out in a well lit area at first, and widely spaced, well able to accommodate any school tours or large tourist groups. The walls of one aisle are covered with the various ‘Hot Press’ covers Phil appeared upon, only just touching upon his emphasis on the Irish music scene as a firm favourite with the prestigious music magazine.
Phil’s life can be seen in the ‘Family Tree’, depicting his time with Thin Lizzy and his other bands and projects before, within and after the years in the famous rock group. Posters tell about the years of Thin Lizzy’s success to their final concert and then to the sad night in 1986 that announced the death of the rock legend.
As the exhibition moves to the darker areas of the room, records, guitars and clothing are all available to be seen. It is a rare and rather moving trip for long term fans of the rock legend and one that they may not experience again.
Despite his tragic and premature end, the success of the exhibition which has been extended to run till May, proves that the fame and glory of Ireland’s ‘rocker’ has not yet lay down in the grave with him. His legend lives on as his fans and Ireland prove that we are still in love with him.