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Phil Coulter

Phil Coulter
Birth name Philip Coulter
Born (1942-02-19) 19 February 1942 (age 78)
Origin Derry, Northern Ireland
Genres Folk, pop, traditional Irish
Occupation(s) Musician, songwriter, record producer
Instruments Vocals, piano
Years active 1967–present

Phil Coulter (born 19 February 1942)[1] is an Irish musician, songwriter and record producer. He was awarded the Gold Badge from the British Academy of Songwriters, Composers and Authors in October 2009.[2][3]

Coulter has amassed 23 platinum discs, 39 gold discs, 52 silver discs, two Grand Prix Eurovision awards; five Ivor Novello Awards, which includes Songwriter of the Year; three American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers awards; a Grammy Nomination; a Meteor Award, a National Entertainment Award and a Rose d'or d'Antibes.[2] He is one of the biggest record sellers in his native land.[4]

Early years

Coulter was born in Derry, Northern Ireland,[5] where his father was a Catholic policeman in the Royal Ulster Constabulary. He grew up with his two brothers and two sisters.

Coulter's father, also called Phil, encouraged music in the house. He played the fiddle whilst his wife played the upright piano. The younger Coulter recalls this piano, made by Challen, as "the most important piece of furniture in the house". “I always stayed away from the fiddle, having inflicted enough pain on my family with the piano," he laughed. Coulter confesses that he came close to abandoning the piano at an early age. "The truth is I hated the piano at first. I'd love to say I was a natural but I wasn't. I hated playing it and I hated my music teacher. My father, who was a canny man, told me, 'We have to scrimp and save to pay for these lessons, you might as well give them up.’ “It wasn't long before I gravitated back to the piano, trying to play the songs that I was listening to on the radio. I always wondered what my left hand was supposed to be doing though. But after two or three years at St. Columb's College I began thinking of the piano as an extension of myself."[citation needed]

One of Coulter's most popular songs, "The Town I Loved So Well",[4] (famously performed by Luke Kelly of The Dubliners) deals with the embattled city of his youth, filled with "that damned barbed wire" during the Troubles.[6]


Coulter spent his secondary school years at St. Columb's College. He later studied music and French at the Queen's University of Belfast (QUB).[5] Coulter has received honorary doctorates from the University of Ulster and Dublin Institute of Technology.[citation needed]

Beginnings of a career in music

He started his first band at Queen's University, playing early rock and roll music despite studying classical music. Coulter was also founder of the Glee Club, which staged music events for the university. By 1964, his final year at university, Coulter had already written a couple of hit songs in Ireland and he moved to London, where his first job was as an arranger/songwriter with a music publisher in Denmark Street. From here he was hired to work with acts including Billy Connolly,[1] Van Morrison, Jerry Lee Lewis and Tom Jones.

He wrote "Foolin' Time" (1963), a hit for the Capitol Showband, plus Ireland's 1965 Eurovision Song Contest entry "Walking the Streets in the Rain". Other songs he contributed to around that time included his arrangement of "Terry" (1964),[1] a UK No. 4 hit for Twinkle,[7] plus co-writing "I Can Only Give You Everything", which was originally recorded by Them.[5][8]

Songwriting partnership with Bill Martin

In 1965, he met Bill Martin and the two became established as a successful songwriting team that lasted more than ten years (Martin for the lyrics, Coulter for the melody).[9] They wrote Sandie Shaw's 1967 Eurovision-winning entry, "Puppet on a String", which became an international hit which was covered more than a 100 times. The following year their song "Congratulations", sung by Cliff Richard, came second in in the Eurovision Song Contest. In 2008 a Spanish documentary alleged that Cliff Richard had been robbed of victory after General Francisco Franco fixed the vote.[10] The person who made the claim in the documentary, José María Íñigo, said later that his words had been taken out of context.[11] Seven years after "Congratulations", another Coulter song, "Toi", co-written with Pierre Cour, was performed as the Luxembourg entry by Coulter's future wife Geraldine in Stockholm. It came fifth. Coulter and Martin also wrote "Shine It On", which finished third in the 1978 heat of A Song for Europe, performed by the Glaswegian performer Christian.

Between 1967 and 1976, they had four No. 1 hits in the UK: "Puppet on a String", "Congratulations", "Back Home" and "Forever and Ever".[12] There were also numerous Top 10 hits including the Bay City Rollers' "Shang-A-Lang",[13] "Fancy Pants" by the glam rock band Kenny,[14] "Requiem" by the Scottish pop group Slik,[15] and "Surround Yourself with Sorrow" by Cilla Black.[16] In 1975, Martin and Coulter were joint recipients of an Ivor Novello Award for 'Songwriter of the Year'.[9]

The Bay City Rollers had a No. 1 hit in 1976 in the US Billboard Hot 100 chart with "Saturday Night", a song that was not released as a single in the UK.[9] There were three No. 1 hits in the US for the songwriters, the other two (which were chart-toppers on the Billboard Hot Country Songs and the Adult Contemporary listings respectively) being "Thanks", performed by Bill Anderson and "My Boy", sung by Elvis Presley.[17][18]

They also contributed incidental music to the 1967 Spider-Man television series, and Coulter also wrote the score to the 1978 film version of The Water Babies.

Sideman and producer

As well as writing hit singles, Coulter produced three albums with Planxty.[1] Christy Moore wrote:

"With no competition he gave us a shite contract and we signed everything away. All that said, 30 years on this album sounds good. He produced it well and ... (he had) the foresight and wherewithal to record the band at a time when no one else was listening.[19]

Coulter produced, arranged and wrote most of the late Joe Dolan 1983 album, Here and Now. The album featured several hit singles, including the Irish Top Ten hit "Deeper and Deeper" which remained a staple in Dolan's live sets, and was also one of the last songs he performed before he became ill on stage, during what turned out to be his last ever show in Abbeyleix. The album was released in South Africa as Yours Faithfully where it went to number one within one week of release.[citation needed]

In 2007, Coulter joined with Sharon Browne, one of the originators of the successful Celtic Woman production, to collaborate on formation of a male version of that production called Celtic Thunder. A stage production at The Helix in Dublin was released on DVD as Celtic Thunder: The Show, and it went to the top of the Amazon and Billboard Top World Albums chart in 2008. Many of the tracks in the show, such as "That's a Woman" and "Heartbreaker", were written by Coulter.[citation needed]

Solo success

In 1984 Coulter launched himself as an artist in his own right and began by releasing a solo instrumental album called Classic Tranquility.[5] His follow-up, Sea of Tranquility, became the second-best selling album of all time in Ireland.[citation needed] It peaked at No. 46 in the UK Albums Chart, and remained in the chart for fourteen weeks.[20] The follow-up album, Phil Coulter's Ireland reached No. 86 in the UK.[20] He moved from London back to Ireland, where he established his music publishing company on the grounds of his house in Bray, south of Dublin. Coulter's official website notes that he has some 23 platinum records, 39 gold and 52 silver albums. He also keeps one of the walls of his office blank, "to remind me that there's still room for a lot more."[2]

In the 1990s, Coulter's produced work for both Sinéad O'Connor and Boyzone.[1]

In 2001 he was nominated for a Grammy Award in the "New Age" category for his album Highland Cathedral (2000).[21] He continues to be a popular performer in his native country and around the world in places such as The White House and Carnegie Hall.[citation needed]


In 2002, Coulter was encouraged by the Save the Swilly organisation to run for Dáil to protect Lough Swilly from aquacultural destruction.[22] After some deliberation, he concluded that work and family commitments would not allow him the time necessary to fill the political position. Around that time, Coulter's brother died in a drowning incident in Ireland, which also caused Phil to retreat from the music industry for some time.[1]


Coulter is a former president of Derry City Football Club and is known to be a supporter of the club, having attempted to help the club with its financial problems in the early 2000s. He has also helped Derry City's local rivals, Finn Harps, in their time of need.[citation needed]

Hi son Ryan plays in goal for Athlone Town A.F.C.[23]

In 1995, the Irish Rugby Football Union commissioned Coulter to write a politically neutral anthem for the Ireland national rugby union team, which represents both Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. The result was "Ireland's Call", which is played alongside, and in some cases instead of, "Amhrán na bhFiann". As well as being used by both the Ireland national rugby union team and the junior national teams, "Ireland's Call" has since also been adopted by the Ireland's national hockey, cricket and rugby league teams.[citation needed]



Year Album Peak positions


1984 Sea of Tranquility 46
1985 Phil Coulter's Ireland 86
2003 Coulter & Company 13
2006 Timeless Tranquility 45
2011 Reflections 36



Entries in the Eurovision Song Contest


  1. ^ a b c d e f "Phil Coulter". 19 February 1942. Retrieved 31 December 2012. 
  2. ^ a b c "Welcome to Phil Coulter Online". Retrieved 30 December 2012. 
  3. ^ "Gold Badge Awards 2009". Retrieved 31 December 2012. 
  4. ^ a b "Irish Repertory Theatre – The Songs I Love So Well". Retrieved 31 December 2012. 
  5. ^ a b c d Ankeny, Jason. "Phil Coulter – Music Biography, Credits and Discography". AllMusic. Retrieved 31 December 2012. 
  6. ^ "Phil Coulter – Cordula's Web". Retrieved 31 December 2012. 
  7. ^ Roberts, David (2006). British Hit Singles & Albums (19th ed.). London: Guinness World Records Limited. p. 570. ISBN 1-904994-10-5. 
  8. ^ Unterberger, Richie (19 June 2001). "I Can Only Give You Everything – Them, Van Morrison : Listen, Appearances, Song Review". AllMusic. Retrieved 31 December 2012. 
  9. ^ a b c "Bill Martin – Music Biography, Credits and Discography". AllMusic. Retrieved 30 December 2012. 
  10. ^ The Irish Times, "Spanish documentary offers Cliff and Coulter congratulations – 40 years on"
  11. ^ "Massiel e Iñigo acusan a La Sexta de 'urdir todo para favorecer a Chikilicuatre'". Retrieved 30 December 2012. 
  12. ^ "Artist: Bill Martin". Second Hand Songs. Retrieved 30 December 2012. 
  13. ^ Thompson, Dave. "Shang-A-Lang – Bay City Rollers : Listen, Appearances, Song Review". AllMusic. Retrieved 30 December 2012. 
  14. ^ Thompson, Dave (26 September 2000). "The Singles Collection Plus – Kenny : Songs, Reviews, Credits, Awards". AllMusic. Retrieved 30 December 2012. 
  15. ^ Thompson, Dave. "Slik – Music Biography, Credits and Discography". AllMusic. Retrieved 30 December 2012. 
  16. ^ "Surround Yourself with Sorrow – Cilla Black : Listen, Appearances, Song Review". AllMusic. Retrieved 30 December 2012. 
  17. ^ "Bill Martin – Songwriter Celebrity Speaker Music Publisher Producer". 7 February 2011. Retrieved 30 December 2012. 
  18. ^ Hyatt, Wesley (1999). The Billboard book of number one adult contemporary hits (First ed.). Billboard Books. p. 200. ISBN 0823076938. 
  19. ^ [1][dead link]
  20. ^ a b Roberts, David (2006). British Hit Singles & Albums (19th ed.). London: Guinness World Records Limited. p. 123. ISBN 1-904994-10-5. 
  21. ^ Phil Coulter. "Phil Coulter – Awards". AllMusic. Retrieved 31 December 2012. 
  22. ^ "Phil Coulter makes plea for Donegal Lough". Retrieved 31 December 2012. 
  23. ^ Pollard, Stephen. "We love sports like you ! Full coverage of the Brazil 2014 World Cup !". Retrieved 2014-08-13. 
  24. ^ a b "Phil Coulter – Music Charts". Retrieved 17 October 2013. 

External links

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