They’ve finally been nominated for the honor as part of the class of 2020. Should they receive the nod, Lynott will be inducted along with Scott Gorham, Brian Downey, Brian Robertson and Eric Bell.
Although Thin Lizzy’s moment in the spotlight didn’t last long, that doesn’t mean they’re not worthy of induction. If anything, their achievements during a relatively short run of success should be an argument in their favor. Here are five more reasons they should be honored.
It wasn’t just the fact that Lynott was mixed-race – perhaps something that gained more attention in the U.K. than in the U.S. – but it was also that, as an Irish group working through the period known as “The Troubles,” when people in parts of the island lived under the watchful eyes of armed cops and soldiers and waited for the next terrorist atrocity. For Thin Lizzy to feature both Catholics and Protestants, thus crossing the religious divide at the center of the dispute, was remarkable in any part of the world touched by terrorism.
Thin Lizzy – ‘Whiskey in the Jar’
Inspired by Irish folk tales and the kind of gallows humor to be expected from those who grow up against a background of disorder, Lynott became a significant working-class poet, expressing in a few verses the kinds of meanings and feelings that commentators could (and did) take thousands of words to explore. While Thin Lizzy were predominantly known for fast hard rock songs, those lyrics helped introduce the concept of ballads – that is, songs that tell stories about people – to an audience not always open to the idea. “I still hear the wind whistling through the wild wood, whispering goodbye” (from “Philomena”)… “Valentino’s in a cold sweat, but he lost all his money on that last bet / Against all the odds he smokes another cigarette” (from “Waiting For an Alibi”) … “She’s got the pleasure, comes from all the cornerstones of the world / She’s so fantastic, she’s everybody’s favorite little record girl” (from “Rosalie).
Thin Lizzy – ‘Rosalie’
As if his lyrics weren’t musical enough on their own, the construction of Thin Lizzy’s music was also remarkable. While they didn’t invent the twin-guitar approach to rock, they most certainly developed and refined it and took it to a new audience. With the words and music providing such a strong structure, it’s no surprise that the band were at their best on stage, transmitting emotions in sound and movement. So it’s also no surprise that Live and Dangerous, while far from being the first successful live album in rock history, remains regarded as one of the best.
Thin Lizzy – ‘The Boys are Back in Town’
He seemed to see further than most, with the poet’s eye and the musician’s hands; and yet he struggled with his own demons and died aged just 36 as a result of drug addiction. While the tragedy remains raw to many, it’s one that reflects so many of the fairy-story tragedies that inspired him. If he’d been able to write a song about his own rise and fall, it would doubtlessly have been one of his best; and maybe some people hear parts of that unwritten song when they listen to the words he left behind today. That’s why he remains admired at the level of John Lennon, Lemmy Kilmister and others of that ilk – he lived and died as the type of folk hero he wrote about.
Thin Lizzy – ‘Don’t Believe a Word’
Where did he get his Lynottness from? It’s worth noting that Celtic mythology and society often operated within a matriarchal structure and strong women were no rare thing in his world. Most notable was his mom, Philomena Lynott, who died aged 88 in 2019, and led a life ever larger, probably, than Phil did himself.
Fighting off the apparent disgrace of giving birth to a mixed-race child out of wedlock, Philomena fought and fought and never gave up. And although she wasn’t able to save her son in the end, many of the musicians who passed through the Thin Lizzy family, or indeed stayed in the hotel she once ran (including the Sex Pistols, whom she called “nice-mannered”) had cause to look up to her as a mother figure.
Right up until her passing she continued to battle to keep Phil in the spotlight. It’s enough of a shame that he didn’t live long enough to see his band nominated for the Hall of Fame; it’s an almost poetic tragedy that Philomena didn’t either. Still, better late than never.
Thin Lizzy – ‘Philomena’