Trooper Phil Coulter says he's not planning to quit or die 'anytime soon' as he celebrates 80th birthday
'I remember Billy Connolly once telling me, 'if you keep telling yourself that you can't remember stuff, you'll stop remembering stuff''
Living legend Phil Coulter yesterday celebrated his 80th birthday and declared: "I don't intend to die anytime soon, I've still got a lot of sh*t to do."
One of our most successful songwriters and performers of all time, the Derry man performed a sold-out concert in his home town on Friday night at the end of the northern leg of his current tour.
In an exclusive interview with the Sunday World, Phil said: "It's nice to be back in the town I loved so well and celebrating my birthday here.
"We were in Belfast at the Opera House the other day and I was chatting to one of my old pals from Queen's University - we said that when we were running about at Queen's in the whole of our health and we heard of somebody's dad who was 80 we'd be saying, 'ah the poor old geezer, does he still get around by himself?' All of a sudden I find myself at 80.
"Thanks be to Christ I've still got my energy. The whole thing about being on the road is getting yourself up for the gigs, the energy you have to put in, the stimulus and the energy you get off an audience - that's what you feed on and that's what keeps you going."
As a songwriter, Coulter has done it all - topped the British charts, won the Eurovision Song Contest and even experienced the thrill of seeing 'The King' Elvis Presley record his song, My Boy.
Coulter has penned hits for a broad spectrum of artists and groups ranging from seventies heart-throbs the Bay City Rollers to Cliff Richard, Sandie Shaw, Cilla Black and Irish folk sensations The Dubliners.
But the man who composed The Town I Loved So Well about his native city has never been one to live off past glories.
Phil has a great work ethic. "People have asked, 'considering you've had hits in every decade and you're still touring Ireland, the UK and America, to what do you attribute your longevity?' I say, 'that's an easy one to answer. I turn up for work on Monday morning.' And I still believe that.
"I still do a day's work every day of the week, and that's why I don't feel any different.
"If I had retired at 65 and I was sitting about reading the paper, wearing my slippers and scratching myself, I would definitely begin to feel like an old man.
"There's a great country song called Don't Let The Old Man In, and it's brilliant. I definitely subscribe to that. It's a state of mind - if you think of yourself as old then you're going to be old.
"I remember Billy Connolly once telling me, 'if you keep telling yourself that you can't remember stuff, you'll stop remembering stuff.' A lot of it is mind over matter."
Phil's advice to young people starting out is to put in the work.
"My first word of advice to somebody who has aspirations to be in the music and entertainment business and has been told that they're very talented, is that your talent entitles you to nothing, absolutely nothing. It's what you do with the talent that counts.
"It's the application, it's the staying power, it's the stickability if you want to have a career that lasts more than a fortnight. If you want to have a career that sustains you've just got to put in the hours.
"I'm not coasting on the back of all the years I'm at this, I'm still doing it. For example, I sold out the Belfast Opera House and the Millennium Forum here in Derry, and I don't feel that I'm entitled to sell out.
"I don't feel that there is any duty on the audience to buy the tickets and turn up.
"It's up to me to make sure that they want to come and see me by giving them a different show. I still care enough not to do it on automatic pilot."
Phil shudders when the word 'retirement' is mentioned. "Perish the thought, that's a bad word," he adds. "As Willie Nelson said, 'I sing songs and I play golf, which of the two do you want me to give up?'"
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