December 8, 1986 – Hollywood Fats was born Michael Leonard Mann in Los Angeles on March 17, 1954. He started playing guitar at the age of 10. While in his teens, his mother would drive him to various clubs in South Central Los Angeles to jam with well-known blues musicians when they came to town. Hollywood Fats’ father was a doctor and his siblings went on to become doctors and lawyers. He gigged with Buddy Guy and Junior Wells who gave him the nickname.
Hollywood Fats toured with James Harman, Jimmy Witherspoon, J. B. Hutto, John Lee Hooker, Muddy Waters, and Albert King. During the 1970s and 1980s he worked with the blues harmonica player and singer James Harman. He played on a number of his records including Extra Napkin’s, Mo’ Na’Kins, Please, Those Dangerous Gentlemans and Live in ’85. Other guitarists with whom he played included Junior Watson, Kid Ramos and Dave Alvin. Hollywood Fats was invited to be a sideman to Muddy Waters and later met the harmonica player Al Blake. Blake had just moved to Los Angeles from Oklahoma. In 1974, Hollywood Fats and Blake formed a band consisting of pianist Fred Kaplan, Richard Innes on drums and Canned Heat bassist Larry Taylor called the Hollywood Fats Band.
For a King Biscuit Flower Hour concert on September 7, 1979, which was later to be released on record, Hollywood Fats played the lead guitar in Canned Heat.
The Hollywood Fats Band released a self-titled album in 1979, the only album under their name. The band broke up not long after and Hollywood Fats continued to play with Harman’s band, and The Blasters in 1986 replacing Dave Alvin. Hollywood Fats also played with a non-blues band called Dino’s Revenge from 1985 through 1986. He recorded three songs with Dino’s Revenge as well as playing several live performances. The band consisted of Marshall Rohner of T.S.O.L. as well as Kevan Hill, Butch Azevedo and Steven Ameche all of The Twisters.
The Fats Band always rehearsed at Alley Studios in North Hollywood where this informal, yet very important and now rare recording was made. Fats tragically died at the young age of 32, one week after this rehearsal date, thus cutting short an already brilliant career that had he lived, was destined for true legend.Upon his death Guitar Player Magazine wrote in a tribute to him that he was the greatest blues guitar player to come along in the last 25 years. The show the band was rehearsing for was the annual Southern California Blues Society’s Christmas party held at the Music Machine on Pico Blvd in west Los Angeles. The night of the show was a joyous occasion and there were many big time music celebrities in the audience. Among them was Lee Allen, the legendary New Orleans saxophone player, heard playing on so many great rock and roll classics by Little Richard, Fats Domino, Kris Kenner.,etc. Lee played with The Fats Band that night. The band was on fire sounding better than ever with great hopes for the future-but it was not to be. Dreams and aspirations were soon shattered after a night of celebration. Hollywood Fats departed this world in the early morning hours of the following day on December 8, 1986 as the result of a heroin overdose at the age of 32.
December 1, 1986 – Irving Lee Dorsey was born on Christmas Eve December 24, 1924 in New Orleans and a childhood friend of Fats Domino.
At age ten, the family moved to Portland Oregon, he became a WWII veteran, who turned lightweight boxer in the early 1950s and saw success as Kid Chocolate. In 1955, at age 30 he decided to retire from boxing, move back to New Orleans, used his savings to open an auto repair shop and sang in Night Clubs at night. In 1960 his talent was recognized and he was put in contact with young rising star musician/producer Allen Toussaint at a party.
Their first collaboration YaYa became a Golden Record seller but with the British invasion right on his tail, things cooled off a bit until he picked up working with Allen Toussaint again and from 1965 to 1969 he had seven songs in the Hot 100, the most successful of which was “Working In The Coal Mine” in 1966. In 1970 he and Allen Toussaint collaborated on an album entitled “Yes We Can”.
He appeared on an album with Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes, which led to more recordings on his own with ABC Records in the late 1970s. In 1980, he opened for English punk band The Clash on their U.S. tour and opened on tours for James Brown and Jerry Lee Lewis. Many of his songs, and especially “YaYa” and “Working in the Coal Mine” have been covered by many international superstars over the years.
September 27, 1986 – Clifford Lee “Cliff” Burton was born on February 10, 1962 in Castro Valley, California; best known for his time with metal band Metallica. He is widely considered to have been one of the most influential metal bassists of all time. He made heavy use of distortion and effects, heard on his signature piece, “(Anesthesia) Pulling Teeth”.
He began playing bass at age 13, practicing up to six hours per day, even after he joined Metallica. Cliff formed his first band “EZ-Street”, taking its name from a Bay Area topless bar. Other members of EZ Street included future Faith No More guitarist “Big” Jim Martin and future Faith No More and Ozzy Osbourne drummer Mike Bordin.
Cliff and Martin continued their musical collaboration after becoming students at Chabot College in Hayward, CA. Their second band, “Agents of Misfortune”, entered the Hayward Area Recreation Department’s “Battle of the Bands” contest in 1981. Their audition was recorded on video and features some of the earliest footage of Cliff’s trademark playing style. The video also shows his playing some parts of what would soon be two Metallica songs: his signature bass solo, “(Anesthesia) Pulling Teeth”, and the chromatic intro to “For Whom the Bell Tolls”.
He joined his first major band, Trauma, in 1982, after which he was invited to join Metallica, his first recording with Metallica was the Megaforce Demo. He recorded Metallica’s first 3 albums Kill ‘Em All-1983, Ride the Lightning-1984, and Master of Puppets-1986, before his tragic untimely death.
Cliff’s final performance was in Stockholm, Sweden on September 26th 1986. Tragically Cliff was crushed to death after the band’s tour bus crashed on the road between Stockholm and Copenhagen, killing him instantly.
Burton was posthumously inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame with Metallica on April 4, 2009. He was selected as the ninth greatest bassist of all time in an online reader poll organized by Rolling Stone Magazine in 2011.
April 10, 1986 -Linda Creed- Epstein was born on December 6th 1948 in Philadelphia and raised in the city’s Mt. Airy section. She started singing while attending Germantown High School. After graduation, she started singing on the Philadelphia night-club scene and eventually went to New York to get her “big break.” When that didn’t happen, she called her father for help in coming back home and she composed “I’m Coming Home” based on that experience. Linda’s big break actually came in 1970, when UK singer Dusty Springfield recorded her song “Free Girl”. That same year, she teamed up with songwriter and producer Thom Bell. Their first songwriting collaboration, “Stop, Look, Listen (To Your Heart)”, became a Top 40 pop hit for the Stylistics.
March 22, 1986 – Mark Max Edward Dinning was born on August 17th 1933 in Manchester, Oklahoma, the youngest of nine children, but grew up on a farm outside of Nashville, Tennessee. In 1960, he recorded “Teen Angel” that was written by his sister Jean and her husband Red Surrey.
The lyrics told of the death of a teenage love that radio stations in the United Kingdom deemed too morbid to be aired, but it went to No.1 on the Billboard Charts in the U.S. Despite lack of airplay in the UK, the song reached No.37 on the UK Singles Chart and sold over one million copies, and was awarded a gold disc.
Dinning had an alcohol addiction, which restricted his performances, and caused promoters to stop booking him as he faded from public view. Although Dinning never duplicated the success of “Teen Angel”, he had three minor hit records in the ensuing years.
He died of a heart attack on March 22, 1986 at age 52.
March 31, 1986 – O’Kelly Isley Jr (Isley Brothers) was born on December 25th 1937. The eldest of the Isley Brothers, Kelly Isley started singing with his brothers at church. When he was 16, he and his three younger brothers (Rudy, Ronnie and Vernon) formed The Isley Brothers and toured the gospel circuit. Following the death of Vernon Isley from a road accident, the brothers decided to try their hand at doo-wop and moved to New York to find a recording deal. Between 1957 and 1959, the Isleys would record for labels such as Teenage and Mark X. In 1959, they signed with RCA Records after a scout spotted the trio’s energetic live performance.
O’Kelly and his brothers co-wrote their first significant hit, “Shout”. While the original version only peaked at the top 50 of the Hot 100, subsequent cover versions helped the song sell over a million copies. Later moving on to other labels including Scepter and Motown, the brothers would have hits with “Twist & Shout” in 1962 and “This Old Heart of Mine (Is Weak for You)”. In 1959, the Isley family had relocated to Englewood, New Jersey where Kelly stayed with his mother and younger siblings.
In 1969, the brothers left Motown and started their own label, T-Neck Records, where they would write the majority of their recordings, including “It’s Your Thing”. Kelly and his brother Rudy began to take some lead spots on the group’s albums starting with the It’s Our Thing album in 1969. The track, “Black Berries”, from their The Brothers Isley album, was dedicated to Kelly, who Ron would always quote him as saying “the blacker the berry, the sweeter the juice”. That saying had been originated by Harlem Renaissance novelist Wallace Thurman in the 1929 novel, The Blacker the Berry. After the inclusion of younger brothers Ernie and Marvin and brother-in-law Chris Jasper, Kelly, Rudy and Ron didn’t write as much as they did in the past but in an agreement shared parts of the composition credits as they owned the songs’ publishing.
Kelly Isley during the Isleys’ 1970s heyday was usually photographed wearing a cowboy hat and Western type of clothing. According to his brother Ernie, it was Kelly who discovered a homeless Jimi Hendrix after hearing of Hendrix’s talents as a guitarist and helped him get a job with the brothers’ band and allowed to live in his mother’s house.
In 1985 the brothers released the Masterpiece album. It’s Kelly who sings most of the lead of the Phil Collins ballad, “If Leaving Me Is Easy”, on the album with Ron backing him up. Kelly’s last appearance as member of the Isley Brothers was in 1986 on the song “Good Hands” from the Wildcats soundtrack. A heavyset man, Kelly contracted cancer and lost weight, which was shown on the group’s album cover of Masterpiece. In March 1986, Kelly suddenly died of a heart attack at the age of 48 in his Alpine, New Jersey home
March 4, 1986 – Richard George Manuel (The Band) was born on April 3rd 1943 in Stratford, Ontario. He was raised with three brothers, and the four sang in the church choir. Manuel took piano lessons beginning when he was nine, and enjoyed playing piano and rehearsing with friends at his home. Manuel received a diploma from the Ontario Conservatory of Music in lap steel guitar; this was his only formal music certification. Some of his childhood influences were Ray Charles, Bobby Bland, Jimmy Reed and Otis Rush.
He and three friends started a band when he was fifteen, originally named the Rebels but later changed to the Revols, in deference to Duane Eddy and the Rebels. The group also included Ken Kalmusky, a founding member of Great Speckled Bird, and John Till, a founding member of the Full Tilt Boogie Band (Janis Joplin). Although primarily known as a naturally talented vocalist with a soulful rhythm and blues style and rich timbre (often compared to that of Ray Charles), Manuel also developed an intensely rhythmic style of piano unique in its usage of inverted chord structures. These talents were showcased in the Revols.
Manuel first became acquainted with Ronnie Hawkins and the Hawks when the Revols opened for them in Port Dover, Ontario. According to Levon Helm, Hawkins remarked to him about Manuel: “See that kid playing piano? He’s got more talent than Van Cliburn.” The two bands once again connected at the Stratford Coliseum in 1961, when the Revols ended a show featuring the Hawks as headliners. After hearing Manuel singing “Georgia on My Mind”, Hawkins hired the Revols’ pianist rather than competing with them. Manuel was eighteen when he joined Ronnie Hawkins’s backing group, the Hawks. At this time the band already consisted of 21-year-old Levon Helm on drums, 17-year-old Robbie Robertson on guitar and 18-year-old Rick Danko on bass; 24-year-old organist Garth Hudson joined that Christmas.
In 1965, Helm, Hudson and Robertson helped back American bluesman John Hammond on his album So Many Roads. Hammond recommended them to Bob Dylan, who tapped them to serve as his backing band while he switched to an electric sound. In 1966, they toured Europe and the U.S. with Dylan and were known for enduring the ire of Dylan’s folk fans, and were subjected to unpleasant hissing and booing. They gradually became called The Band.
Dylan opened doors for them in the music business by introducing them to his manager, Albert Grossman, and taught them by example about writing their own material.
In 1967, while Dylan recovered from a motorcycle accident in Woodstock, New York, the group moved there also, renting a pink house on 100 acres (0.40 km2) and were paid a retainer by Dylan. Not having to be constantly working and traveling allowed them to experiment with a new sound garnered from the country, soul, rhythm and blues, gospel and rockabilly music that they loved. During this time, while Helm was temporarily absent from the group, Manuel taught himself to play drums in a technically irreverent, “loosey-goosey” style, a little behind the beat, similar to jazz drumming. In the Band era he would frequently assume the drummer’s stool when Helm played mandolin or guitar. Examples of this are the songs “Rag Mama Rag” and “Evangeline”. Manuel’s drumming is prominent on the album Cahoots.
The early months in Woodstock also allowed Manuel and Robertson to develop as songwriters.
Richard’s is the first voice you hear on The Band’s legendary debut album, Music From Big Pink, a rich baritone so soulful and charged with pathos it’s hard to believe it could come from the frail Canadian. Music from Big Pink was released with the group name given as simply “The Band”. This would be their name for the rest of the group’s existence. While only reaching No. 30 on the Billboard charts, the album would have a profound influence on the nascent country rock movement; “Tears of Rage” and “The Weight” would rank among the most covered songs of the era.
In 1970, Manuel acted in the Warner Bros. film Eliza’s Horoscope, an independent Canadian drama written and directed by Gordon Sheppard. He portrayed “the bearded composer,” performing alongside Tommy Lee Jones, former Playboy Bunny Elizabeth Moorman, and Lila Kedrova. Manuel’s “Blues for Breakfast” (an early Woodstock composition) was covered by Cass Elliot on Dream a Little Dream (1968).
He was credited to writing only three songs (“When You Awake,” “Whispering Pines,” and “Jawbone”) on The Band (1969) and two (“Sleeping” and “Just Another Whistle Stop”) on Stage Fright (1970); all of these compositions were credited as collaborations with Robertson, who had assumed dominance in the group’s affairs with Grossman.
According to Helm, When The Band came out we were surprised by some of the songwriting credits. In those days we didn’t realize that song publishing–more than touring or selling records–was the secret source of the real money in the music business. We’re talking long term. We didn’t know enough to ask or demand song credits or anything like that. Back then we’d get a copy of the album when it came out and that’s when we’d learn who’d got the credit for which song. True story…. When the album [The Band] came out, I discovered I was credited with writing half of “Jemima Surrender” and that was it. Richard was a co-writer on three songs. Rick and Garth went uncredited. Robbie Robertson was credited on all 12 songs. Someone had pencil-whipped us.
It was an old tactic: divide and conquer. I went on to express [to Robertson] my belief in creating music with input from everyone and reminded him that all the hot ideas from basic song concepts to the mixing and sequencing of our record, were not always exclusively his. I complained that he and Albert had been making important business decisions without consulting the rest of us. And that far too much cash was coming down in his and Albert’s corner. Our publishing split was far from fair, I told him, and had to be fixed. I told him that he and Albert ought to try and write some music without us because they couldn’t possibly find the songs unless we were all searching together. I cautioned that most so-called business moves had fucked up a lot of great bands and killed off whatever music was left in them.
I told Robbie that The Band was supposed to be partners. Since we were teenagers, we banded against everything and anyone that got in our way. Nothing else–pride, friends, even money–mattered to the rest of us as much as the band did. Even our families had taken second place when the need arose. I said “Robbie, a band has to stick together, protect each other support and encourage each other and grow the music the way a farmer grows his crops.”
Robbie basically told me not to worry because the rumors were true: Albert was going to build a state-of-the-art recording studio in Bearsville and wanted us to be partners in it with him. So any imbalance in song royalties would work out a hundred fold within the grand scheme of things. We would always be a band of brothers with our own place. No more nights in some company’s sterile studio…All we needed to do was play our music and follow our hearts. Well, it never quite worked out that way. We stayed in the divide and conquer mode, a process that no one ever seems to be able to stop to this day.
By Cahoots (1971), producer John Simon felt that “Robbie didn’t… consciously intimidate him… but when you met Robbie he was so smooth and urbane and witty, whereas Richard was such a gee-golly-gosh kind of guy”; the influence of Manuel’s increasingly harmful abuse of heroin may have also contributed to the diminution of his songwriting abilities.
The Band continued touring throughout 1974, supporting Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young alongside Joni Mitchell and the Beach Boys on a grueling summer stadium tour. By 1975, Robertson had expressed his dissatisfaction with touring and was acting in an increasingly parental capacity, as the move to Malibu had seen him take the managerial reins on a de facto basis from an increasingly diffident Grossman. According to Helm, Manuel was now consuming eight bottles of Grand Marnier every day on top of a prodigious cocaine addiction, factors that ultimately precipitated his divorce from Jane Manuel in 1976. During that period, he developed a kinship with the similarly despondent Eric Clapton and was a driving force behind the boozy sessions that make up the guitarist’s No Reason to Cry (1976). Recorded at the Band’s new Shangri-La Studios, Manuel gave Clapton the song “Beautiful Thing” (a Band demo that Danko helped him finish) and provided vocals for “Last Night”.
On the group’s final full-fledged tour, Manuel was still recovering from a car accident earlier in the year; several tour dates were scrapped after a power-boating accident near Austin, Texas, that summer, which necessitated the hiring of Tibetan healers, in a scenario reminiscent of Robertson’s pre-show hypnosis before their first concert as the Band at the Winterland Ballroom in April 1968. The quality of the shows was frequently contingent upon Manuel’s relative sobriety. As he could no longer sustain the high vocal register of “Tears of Rage” or “In a Station”, his most notable contributions were confined to impassioned, raging versions of the prophetic “The Shape I’m In”, “Rockin’ Chair” and “King Harvest (Has Surely Come)”, propelled by his hoarse (though still very expressive) voice.
The Band played its final show as its original configuration at Winterland Ballroom in San Francisco on Thanksgiving Day of 1976. The concert was filmed in 35 mm by Robertson cohort and longtime Band fan Martin Scorsese for the documentary The Last Waltz. Manuel can be heard, but barely seen, singing “I Shall Be Released,” surrounded by various guest stars. While Manuel’s famed sense of humor and warm, congenial nature emerged in the interview segments, so did his shyness, deferential attitude – and inebriation. Initially the group only intended to end live performances as the Band, and each member was initially kept on a retainer of $2,500 per week by Warner Brothers. However, by 1978, the group had drifted apart.
Taking advantage of this new solace, Manuel moved to Garth Hudson’s ranch outside Malibu. He entered an alcohol and drug rehabilitation program, became sober for the first time in years and eventually remarried. During this time he played little-publicized gigs in L.A.-area clubs as leader of the Pencils (with Terry Danko on lead guitar). By 1980, Rick Danko and Manuel had begun to tour regularly as an acoustic duo; along with Hudson, Manuel played on several instrumental cues composed by Robertson for the soundtrack of Raging Bull (1980).
The Band reformed in 1983 with the Cate Brothers and Jim Weider augmenting the four returning members of the group – Manuel, Helm, Hudson, and Danko. Freed from his addictions, Manuel was initially in his best shape since the “Big Pink” era. Having reclaimed some of his vocal range lost in the years of drug abuse, Manuel performed old hits such as “The Shape I’m In”, “Chest Fever”, and “I Shall Be Released” alongside favorites such as Cindy Walker and Eddy Arnold’s “You Don’t Know Me” and “She Knows”. During this time, Manuel co-wrote a song with Gerry Goffin and Carole King called “Breaking New Ground”.
In January 1986, Albert Grossman died of a heart attack. Grossman had been a father figure and confidant to Manuel, and an instrumental figure in any possible solo career. Depressed by Grossman’s death, dwindling access to prestigious concert venues and the perception that the Band had stagnated and had become a traveling jukebox, Manuel returned to his alcohol and cocaine addictions. On March 4, after a gig at the Cheek to Cheek Lounge, in Winter Park, Florida (outside Orlando), Manuel committed suicide. He had appeared to be in relatively good spirits but ominously thanked Hudson for “twenty-five years of incredible music”. The Band returned to the Quality Inn, down the block from the Cheek to Cheek Lounge, and Manuel talked with Levon Helm about music and film in Helm’s room. According to Helm, at around 2:30 Manuel said he needed to get something from his room. Upon returning to his motel room, it is believed that he finished one last bottle of Grand Marnier before hanging himself. Manuel’s wife Arlie—also intoxicated at the time—discovered his body along with the depleted bottle and a small amount of cocaine the following morning.
He was 42 at the time.
Canadian singer, piano, keyboards, drums, and lap slide guitarist,
March 3, 1986 – Howard Greenfield (songwriting partner with Neil Sedaka) was born on March 15, 1936 on Brooklyn, New York. By his late teens Greenfield formed a songwriting partnership with Neil Sedaka, a friend he had met as a teenager when they both lived in the same apartment building, in the Brighton Beach section of Brooklyn. For several years in the 1960s they worked out of the famous Brill Building. He is best known for his series of successful songwriting collaborations, first with Neil Sedaka from the late 1950s to the mid-1970s, and a near-simultaneous and equally successful songwriting partnership with Jack Keller throughout most of the 1960s.
He co-wrote four songs that reached No.1 on the US Billboard charts: “Breaking Up Is Hard to Do”, as recorded by Neil Sedaka; “Everybody’s Somebody’s Fool” and “Breakin’ in a Brand New Broken Heart”, both as recorded by Connie Francis, and “Love Will Keep Us Together”, as recorded by The Captain & Tennille.
He also co-wrote numerous other top 10 hits for Neil Sedaka, including “Oh! Carol”, “Stairway to Heaven”, “Calendar Girl”, “Little Devil”, “Happy Birthday Sweet Sixteen”, and “Next Door to an Angel”;
for Connie Francis including the “Theme to Where The Boys Are” and “My Heart Has a Mind of Its Own”;
for The Everly Brothers-“Crying In The Rain”;
for Jimmy Clanton-“Venus In Blue Jeans” and
for The Shirelles-“Foolish Little Girl”.
As well, co-writing the theme songs to numerous 1960s TV series, including Bewitched, The Flying Nun and Hazel.
In 2005, “Is This The Way To Amarillo”, a song Greenfield had written with Sedaka in the early 1970s, reached No.1 on the UK charts sung by Tony Christie when the song was re-released on 14 March 2005 to raise money for the Comic Relief charity, with an accompanying video by comedian Peter Kay. The video featured an all-star celebrity line-up lip-synching the track, and the proceeds went to charity. The record stayed at #1 for 7 weeks, and became the UK’s best-selling record of the millennium to that time.
Other artists than Connie Francis who sang Howard’s songs include Captain & Tennille, Cher, Patsy Cline, Neil Diamond, Everly Brothers, Johnny Mathis, Wayne Newton, Shirelles, Etta James, Air Supply, LaVern Baker, and Gloria Estefan.
In 1991, Howard Greenfield was posthumously inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame.
He died from complications due to AIDS at age 49 on March 3, 1986.
“I’ll never let you see, the way my broken heart is hurting me,
I’ve got my pride and know how to hide
all my sorrow and pain, I’ll do my crying in the rain…”
January 4, 1986 – Philip Parris “Phil” Lynott was born on 20 August 1949 in West Bromwich, England from a British mom and an Afro Guyanese father and became the bass player/frontman singer of the Irish rock band Thin Lizzy.
When Phil was four years old, he went to live with his grandmother Sarah in Crumlin, Dublin, while his mother stayed in Manchester. In spite of a seemingly confusing domestic arrangement, Lynott had a happy childhood growing up in Dublin, and was a popular character at school.
In the mid 1960s, he began singing in his first band, the Black Eagles. Around this time, he befriended Brian Downey, who was later persuaded to join the band. Before long however the Black Eagles broke up and Phil joined ‘Kama Sutra’ before settling into a short stint singing in (Irish) Skid Row alongside guitar icon Gary Moore (all of 16 years old at the time), before learning the bass guitar and forming Thin Lizzy in 1969.
In 1969, Phil and Brian Downey formed Thin Lizzy with guitarist Eric Bell and keyboard player Eric Wrixon, both had been in the top Irish band Them with Van Morrison as frontman.. Phil was the main songwriter for Thin Lizzy, as well as the lead singer and bassist, even though he was essentially a shy person, who took a long time to create his on stage persona.
The name Thin Lizzy came from the character “Tin Lizzie” in the comic The Dandy, which in turn was based on the nickname for theFord Model T car. The “h” deliberately added to mimic the way the word “thin” is pronounced in a Dublin accent. Lynott only later discovered Henry Ford’s slogan for the Model T, “Any color you like as long as it’s black”, which he felt was appropriate for him. Wrixon was felt by the others to be superfluous to requirements and left after the release of the band’s first single, The Farmer in July 1970.
During the band’s early years, despite being the singer, bassist and chief songwriter, Lynott was still fairly reserved and introverted on stage, and would stand to one side while the spotlight concentrated on Bell, who was initially regarded as the group’s leader. During the recording of the band’s second album, Shades of a Blue Orphanage, Lynott very nearly left Thin Lizzy to form a new band with Deep Purple’s Ritchie Blackmore and Ian Paice. He decided however he would rather build up Lizzy’s career from the ground up than jump into another band that had big-name musicians in it. Due to being in dire financial straits, Lizzy did, however, soon afterwards record an album of Deep Purple covers anonymously under the name Funky Junction. Lynott did not sing on the album as he felt his voice was not in the same style as Ian Gillan.
Towards the end of 1972, Thin Lizzy got their first major break in the UK by supporting Slade, then nearing the height of their commercial success. Inspired by Noddy Holder’s top hat with mirrors, Lynott decided to attach a mirror to his bass, which he carried over to subsequent tours. On the opening night of the tour, an altercation broke out between Lynott and Slade’s manager Chas Chandler (former Animals bass player), who chastised his lack of stage presence and interaction with the audience, and threatened to throw Lizzy off the tour unless things improved immediately. Lynott subsequently developed his onstage rapport and stage presence that would become familiar over the remainder of the decade.
Their first top ten hit was in 1973, with a rock version of the traditional Irish song “Whiskey in the Jar“. After this initial success, the band found strong commercial success in the mid-1970s with hits such as “The Boys Are Back in Town“, “Jailbreak” and “Waiting for an Alibi” and became a popular live attraction due to the combination of Lynott’s vocal and songwriting skills and the use of dual lead guitars.
Having finally achieved mainstream success, Thin Lizzy embarked on several consecutive world tours. The band continued on Jailbreak’s success with the release of a string of hit albums, including Bad Reputation and Black Rose: A Rock Legend, and the live album Live and Dangerous, which feature Lynott in the foreground on the cover. However, the band was suffering from personnel changes, with Robertson being replaced temporarily by Gary Moore in 1976, and then permanently the following year, partly due to a personnel clash with Lynott.
In 1978, Lynott began to work on projects outside of Thin Lizzy. He was featured in Jeff Wayne’s Musical Version of The War of the Worlds, singing and speaking the role of Parson Nathaniel on “The Spirit of Man”. He performed sessions for a number of artists, including singing backing vocals with Bob Geldof on Blast Furnace and the Heatwaves’ “Blue Wave” EP. He was a judge at the 1978 Miss World contest.Towards the end of the 1970s, Lynott also embarked upon a solo career, published two books of poetry.
He released two solo albums in 1980, though Thin Lizzy were still enjoying considerable success. In 1984, after Thin Lizzy disbanded, he formed a new band, Grand Slam, with Doish Nagle, Laurence Archer, Robbie Brennan, and Mark Stanway, of which he was the leader until it folded in 1985 due to a lack of money and Lynott’s increasing addiction to heroin. He had one more major UK success with Gary Moore with the song “Out in the Fields”, followed by the minor hit “Nineteen”, before his death on 4 January 1986.
His heroin dependency landed him in the hospital on Christmas Day 1985. Although he regained consciousness enough to speak to his mother, his condition worsened by the start of the new year and he was put on a respirator. He died of pneumonia and heart failure due to septicaemia in the hospital’s intensive care unit on 4 January 1986, at the age of 36
He was 36 years 4 months 15 days old when he died on 4 January 1986
He remains a popular figure in the rock world, and in 2005, a statue to his memory was erected in Dublin.
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