There was a connection. My sister Ruth was formerly married to Lee’s son Phil, and it was through this link that I came to meet Lee and became familiar with his music. As well as being my brother-in-law, I always considered Phil a good friend and hopefully that remains the case. Back in 1993, when Phil was experiencing some personal difficulties, I spent a short time living with him at his flat in Feltham (and thereby probably made his difficulties worse, but I digress).
Lee Lynch was born in Ballinasloe, Co. Galway, in 1937. Wikipedia describes him as “an Irish singer”. When I once described him thus Phil corrected me, insisting Lee was “a singer who is Irish”.
Phil was right. Despite having written and recorded several memorable Irish songs most of his work was actually mainstream, and he wrote many of his own numbers as well as performing several popular cover versions.
Lee’s first big performance was in 1960 at the Morecambe Winter Gardens, where he supported Emile Ford and The Checkmates, having been discovered shortly beforehand by Vince Hill. In 1963 he joined The Tropical Showband and two years later formed his own group, The Blue Angels, who released a cover of the Beatles song You Won’t See Me on Decca. In 1971 he joined The Royal Showband as lead singer.
Although on the few occasions when I saw him perform his gigs were very well-supported, I was nonetheless surprised when on a trip to Belgium in the early 1980s I spotted one of his records on the juke box at a bar that I happened to be visiting. I shouldn’t have been, he had actually represented Great Britain in a song contest in Belgium in 1969 with a song called Stay Awhile, which had topped the Belgian charts, and his popularity in that country as well as in many other parts of Europe had well survived the passing of time.
In September 1974 he made the first of two appearances at the Royal Albert Hall. Following a period of serious illness he returned to the venue again in 1980. In the same year he was voted London’s favourite Irish vocalist. Between that time and 1982 he released what are probably his two best known Irish songs, Paddy’s on the Move Again and Famous Shamus. I remain astounded by the number of Irish people I meet all these years later who knew and still recall these songs – some can remember them verbatim.
Lee continued to write and record, and perform live, until open heart surgery compelled him to retire to the English countryside in 1994. His quality as a performer can be gauged by the calibre of the artists with whom he appeared – Tom Jones, Van Morrison and Jim Reeves, to name a few.
As well as Phil, Lee leaves a wife, Ruby, and daughter Debbie. He survived another daughter, Susan, who sadly passed away aged 17 in 1979.