The Reading Room

The Poetry of Phil Lynott

Phil Lynott’s poem for his mother….

philRetroculturati remembers Philip Lynott, the charismatic lead singer, bass player and founder of the Irish rock band Thin Lizzy who died on January 4th 1986.

He lived a remarkable life and left behind a legacy of brilliant albums before his premature death from septicaemia at the age of thirty six. A life blighted by alcohol and drug abuse led to a marriage break-up which he never truly recovered from. That, and the demise of his beloved band cast a long and dark shadow, but his ability to write heartfelt lyrics and unique music won him many fans and sealed his place amongst rock’s greats.

Lynott was much more than a rock star, his songs were deeper than most of the genre. He wore his heart on his lyric sleeve, he was the quintessential romantic Irishman with a passion for his roots, politics, religion and women. Best known, sadly, for Lizzy’s biggest hit, ‘The Boys Are Back In Town’ his two books of poetry are deserving of a wider audience and recognition.

His first collection of poems ‘Songs For While I’m Away’ was published in 1971. Containing twenty one lyrics and poems the short initial print run of a thousand copies made it a highly sought after book. Three years later a second volume was published simply entitled ‘Philip‘ and once again, the twenty five pieces were mostly song lyrics. In 1997 Boxtree had the good sense to combine the two volumes in the edition shown here, complete with drawings by artists Jim Fitzpatrick and Tim Booth.

The book asks the worthwhile question of whether a song lyric could be called a poem? One could say that a lyric is a poem set to music which is how I would describe Lynott’s work in particular. I always sensed that Lynott wrote his songs as a result of having something to say rather than having to write a song. They were often eerily reflective and none more so than in the words to ‘Philomena‘, a song for his mother of the same name. Originally from the 1974 album, Nightlife, this is a song which, for me, makes a better poem. His vocal is less convincing than the lyric itself and it is almost a shame he recorded it.

The final verse captures perfectly his life on the road, it is a recognition of the worry he causes his mother because of his wandering ways and one cannot help but wonder what she must have felt when she read it. Lynott was a decent man who influenced many and were he still alive today I am sure he would prefer to be known as a poet with a twinkle in his eye and a smile for the ladies.

If you see my mother

Give her all my love

For she has a heart of gold there

As good as God above

If you see my mother

Tell her I’m keeping fine

Tell her that I love her

And I’ll try and write sometime

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