Thin Lizzy’s classic twin lead guitar harmonies, raw yet poetic lyrics, and energetic live shows defined hard rock.
Thin Lizzy’s impact on rock & roll reaches far and wide. Phil Lynott and Brian Downey met as schoolmates in Dublin, and in 1969 they formed Thin Lizzy—a hard rock band that simultaneously defined and defied rock norms. On the one hand, their classic licks, charismatic leader, and energetic live shows fit squarely into the equation. On the other, they were an interracial band from Ireland who brought a thrilling new guitar sound into the genre.
On their first two records, Thin Lizzy blended psychedelic rock, blues, and folk. By their third album, Vagabonds of the Western World, their sound turned toward blues-based hard rock. Throughout shifts in genre and several lineup changes, elements of their style remained constant. Phil Lynott’s poetry-inspired lyrics and assertive, driving bass style led the band. Downey’s dexterity and dynamic range on drums held down the groove.
Starting in the mid-1970s, the group added twin lead guitar harmonies, prominent in songs like “Wild One” (Fighting, 1975) and “The Boys Are Back in Town” (Jailbreak, 1976). While the band always had one toe in heavy metal, their last release, Thunder and Lightning, fully embodied the metal sound. After Lynott’s death in 1986, various reunion projects materialized, including those led by guitarist John Sykes and the Black Star Riders.
In addition to Lynott’s status as the first black Irish rock star, the band formed during a political, nationalistic conflict in Northern Ireland. The band’s makeup rebelliously crossed geographical, racial, and religious lines, consisting of musicians from Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic in the South, black and white, Catholic and Protestant. Their very existence was a political statement. Musically, they inspired metal bands from Judas Priest to Def Leppard to incorporate twin lead guitar harmonies. Their 1978 Live and Dangerous is consistently ranked among the greatest live albums of all time. With the magnetic Phil Lynott at the helm, Thin Lizzy captured and exemplified the spirit and excitement of rock & roll.
“Whiskey in the Jar” (1972) • “The Rocker” Vagabonds of the Western World (1973) • “Rosalie,” “Wild One” Fighting (1975) • “Jailbreak,” “The Boys Are Back in Town” Jailbreak (1976) • “Bad Reputation,” “Dancing in the Moonlight” Bad Reputation (1977) • “Cowboy Song” Live and Dangerous (1978) • “Róisín Dubh (Black Rose): A Rock Legend” Black Rose: A Rock Legend (1979) • “Cold Sweat” Thunder and Lightning (1983)