Jim Fitzpatrick turned seventy yesterday. I was planning on writing this post in honor of that, but decided against it due to work, et cetera. Then today, I decided, "The hell with it! I've been a Fitzpatrick fan since junior high and the man doesn't turn seventy every day. We're lucky to have 'im on this side of the grave and he deserves a (belated) post."
Jim Fitzpatrick was right there during the formative years of heavy metal, creating classic album covers for Thin Lizzy. His work still appears on metal CDs to this day. Let's take a look at Jim's heavy metal legacy (thus far).
Jim Fitzpatrick was born in 1948 in a suburb outside Dublin, Ireland. He became active in the city's rock scene early on, creating posters for local bands and cultural events. Eventually, his work was noticed by Phil Lynott, bassist and singer for Dublin's premier rock band, Thin Lizzy. They shared not just a love of rock n' roll, but also of Irish culture and of American comic art, especially the art found in the Marvel comics of the '60s and early '70s. The two became friends for life.
That friendship—and Jim's talent—led to Fitzpatrick art gracing Lizzy's third album, Vagabonds of the Western World. His style at that time was heavily influenced by the psychedelic art coming out of San Francisco and by Marvel Comics' art, especially that of Jack Kirby. This showed in the various artworks Fitzpatrick did for the album. His promo poster for the Lizzy single, "The Rocker," depicts Phil Lynott on a proto-Judge Dredd sci-fi motorcycle.
Thin Lizzy wasn't the only game in town and Jim had bills to pay, so he also did album artwork for the English heavy rock band, Hackensack, whose record, Up the Hard Way, came out six months after "Vagabonds." Fitzpatrick has this to say about Lynott's reaction:
Typical Fitzpatrick understatement, since Hackensack folded after one LP and Thin Lizzy went on to become one of the biggest hard rock/metal acts in the world. Jim would paint the majority of Lizzy album covers until the band ended in 1983.
The Thin Lizzy album that Fitzpatrick is most famous for is Jailbreak. He had this to say about the creation of that iconic work of art:
Fitzpatrick would go on to do several more covers after Jailbreak, but following the poor sales of 1981's Chinatown—due to problems in the band, exacerbated by drug abuse—the record company would no longer let Lynott decide who did the cover art. I've heard rumors of a never-used Fitzpatrick painting for Lizzy's thunderous swan song LP, Thunder and Lightning, but I've never seen anything to confirm it. I'm sure it would've been glorious and far better than what fans actually got.
Fitzpatrick art would not grace the cover of a metal album again until 2002. The late, great Mark "The Shark" Shelton and the mighty Manilla Road chose Jim's art from the cover of The Book of Conquests to emblazon their pile-driving CD, Mark of the Beast.
Spoken like a true rocker.
*Check it out in the Thin Lizzy art gallery below.