| 12.7°C Dublin

DADDY COOL Phil Lynnot’s short life was a production line of art that will endure through the decades

Why Phil Lynott's lyrical legacy will forever be with us


Phil Lynott with his daughter, Sarah, for whom he penned an iconic hit.

Phil Lynott with his daughter, Sarah, for whom he penned an iconic hit.

Phil Lynott with his daughter, Sarah, for whom he penned an iconic hit.

He was this exotic and beautiful creature, a jolting ebony contrast to 1970s Ireland's monochrome whiteness.

His uniform was a base guitar, an uncontainable mop of raven curls that fell over huge, intelligent eyes, twin gold rings that danced in his left ear-lobe, and the rock-star strut and Orion glow of a natural born showman.

He was charisma made flesh, his presence sufficient to fill any room into which he sashayed. When he stepped onto a stage, the rest of the universe melted away until there was just him, this shimmering celestial body at the epicentre of existence.

Guitar music would slice the air in two, this god of the night would gyrate and flounce, and an electrifying, super-current voltage would surge through his hypnotised devotees.

And in that moment of rapture everyone looking on was liberated from the constraining chains of everyday life.

When he stepped off the stage, it was often to enter badlands where he was besieged by an intense, debilitating insecurity.

At 21, he walked the streets of London, calling into one barber shop after another in search of the hair-cutting father - Cecil Parris - that he had yet to meet.

His love song to his daughter, Sarah, is a profound, flawless ode to the miracle of birth, a sonnet flaming with the kind of raw emotion that can only be sourced at the marrow of a parent looking into the eyes of their new-born child.

It is every father's thanksgiving. It is the overflowing cup of love.

"When you begin to smile you change my style

My Sarah

When I look in your eyes I see my prize

My Sarah

"You are all I want to know

Sunday World Newsletter

Sign up for the latest news and updates

This field is required This field is required

You hold my heart so don't let go

You are all I need to live

My love to you I'll give."

Lord, isn't it beautiful?

He was a poet, the Crumlin Heaney, bestowing to the musical canon lyrics of depth and soul.

He was an alchemist, transforming the base metal of words and guitar strings into an elixir for life.

His song, Dublin, is a masterpiece of observation, a potent postcard from the deck of an emigrant boat leaving behind Anna Livia and the town that shaped him.

Google it this morning. If you are animate, his haunting delivery will reach down and seize hold of your entire being.

"How can I leave the town that brings me down

That has no jobs

Is blessed by God

And makes me cry"

In Emer Reynolds' powerful documentary of his life, Songs for While I'm Away (shown by RTÉ last Wednesday), his ex-girlfriend, Gale Claydon, speaks of the demons that frequently colonised his thoughts.

"He was continually waiting for life to fall apart or be betrayed."

He moved between the contrasting territories of the sensitive bard and the leather- trousered rock star.

According to U2's Adam Clayton, his fellow base guitarist's magnetic persona was worn as his "armour against the world."

It could only keep him safe for so long. He was dead at 36, lost to an addiction that fired more poison into his veins than his heart could handle.

His too short life was a conveyor belt of creativity, a production line of art that will endure through the decades.

In life he was prolific, so many imperishable, bittersweet vocals and melodies plucked from the ripe orchard of his mind.

Listen to Jailbreak or Waiting for an Alibi or Dancing in the Moonlight or Still in Love with You and allow the waves of one man's genius to wash over you.

It is as convulsing as diving headlong into the chill December waters of The Forty Foot.

The Boys are Back in Town is a stirring rock masterpiece, a little under four-and-a-half minutes of blessed make-believe that handed his audience a visa to lose their bearings somewhere between Earth and Elysium.

He lived life in the fast lane, speeding tickets piling up like his afro curls until, four years shy of his 40th birthday, his license to walk the planet was revoked.

One of his final creations was a dark cry from his core called The Sun Goes Down.

"There is a demon among us whose soul belongs in hell

Sent here to redeem us, she knows it all too well

He comes and goes, he comes and goes

She knows it all too well

But when all is said and done

The sun goes down."

The sun went down one last time for this wellspring of verse in an English hospital bed on January 4, 1986.

Yet, through the miracle of his music, he continues to walk among us. His name is Phil Lynott, Irishman, poet, exotic creature, tormented soul, father, showman, eternal maker of magic.

A man who made our days better.

Download the Sunday World app

Now download the free app for all the latest Sunday World News, Crime, Irish Showbiz and Sport. Available on Apple and Android devices

Top Videos