Phil Coulter

Phil Coulter (born 19 February 1942) is an Irish artist with an international reputation as a successful songwriter, pianist, music producer, arranger and director. His success has spanned over four decades and is one of the biggest record sellers in Ireland.

Early years

Coulter is from Derry in Northern Ireland where his father was a policeman; one of few Catholic constables in the force. 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". One of Coulter's most popular songs, "The Town I Loved So Well", deals with the embattled city of his youth, filled with "that damned barbed wire" during the Troubles.


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). Coulter has received honorary doctorates from the University of Ulster and Dublin Institute of Technology.

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. Frome here he was hired to work with name acts including Billy Connolly, Van Morrison, Jerry Lee Lewis and Tom Jones.

Songwriting partnership with Bill Martin

In the late 1960s Coulter formed a long-lasting writing partnership with Bill Martin. They wrote Sandie Shaw's 1967 Eurovision-winning entry, "Puppet on a String", which would go on to become an international hit with more than 100 cover versions. They had a second hit the next year with a song for Cliff Richard called "Congratulations", which finished second at Eurovision. A Spanish documentary in 2008 however revealed that Cliff Richard had been robbed of victory after Gen Francisco Franco fixed the vote. Seven years later Coulter found himself back on the Eurovision stage when he co wrote, together with Pierre Cour, the song Toi for Luxembourg: the song, which was performed by Coulter's future wife Geraldine, came fifth in Stockholm. Coulter and Martin later wrote the song "Shine It On", which would finish third in the 1978 heat of A Song for Europe, performed by Glaswegian performer "Christian". The Duo wrote numerous hit songs for a variety of popular singers in the 1960s and 1970s, including "My Boy" for Elvis Presley and many of the Bay City Rollers' hits: they also contributed incidental music to the 1967 Spider-Man television series. They were awarded "Songwriters of the Year" in 1975.

Sidesman and producer

As well as writing hit singles, Coulter produced three ground-breaking albums with Planxty, which would have an influence on modern Irish music. 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."

In addition to writing hits for the Bay City Rollers, Coulter also wrote songs for several other teenybop bands of the 1970s, including Kenny and Slik, and appeared as a production credit on "Automatic Lover" by Dee D. Jackson.

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 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.

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. His follow-up, Sea of Tranquility, became the second-best selling album of all time in Ireland. 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.". In 2001 he was nominated for a Grammy Award in the "New Age" category for his album Highland Cathedral. At the age of 67, 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.


Many of Coulter's compositions are derived from personal experiences. The memory of his father is deeply painful to him and inspired the song "The Old Man". Furthermore, "Scorn Not His Simplicity", pleads for tolerance and understanding of his son, who was born with Down's syndrome and died at the age of four. The Shores of the Swilly is written in memory of Coulter's sister Cyd who died on that stretch of water in County Donegal, while Star of The Sea is written in memory of his brother Brian who too died in tragic circumstances on the Lough just a year after losing his sister in '83

In 2002, Phil was encouraged by the Save the Swilly organisation to run for Dáil in order to protect Lough Swilly from aquacultural destruction. After some deliberation, Phil concluded that work and family commitments wouldn't allow him the time necessary to fill the political position. Some say that the passing of his priest brother Joseph at that time had a significant influence on his decision.


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. His son Ryan Coulter has been a goalkeeper for Dundalk F.C.

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 of, 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.

This biography was taken verbatim from the Wikipedia. We're providing a snapshot just in case the Wikipedia servers were temporarily unreacheable. The original page is not only much more up-to-date, it also features links to other pages and sites. This snapshot was last updated: 10/13/2009. (mm/dd/yyyy)

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