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In 3 Sets
Written by Scott Gorham/Phil Lynott
Mike Pomranz - Everything but violin
Abigail Wilensky - Violin
Recorded, mixed and produced by Mike Pomranz
Mastered by Darren Morze
In the ethos of rock music, "drugs" has typically received second billing only to "sex," ranking above even "rock & roll" itself in the genre's oft repeated maxim. So that drugs should be the lyrical topic of choice in such a hard rocking (and one of my personal favorite) Thin Lizzy songs is certainly fitting.
"Got to Give It Up" recounts the tale of one man's battle with alcohol (and cocaine... and eventually heroin). From the song's opening verse -- "Tell my mama and tell my pa that their fine young son didn't get far; he made it to the end of a bottle sitting in a sleazy bar" -- two things are immediately established: 1) Here's a tune that anyone who's ever had a not-particularly-recreational night of drinking can relate to, and 2) this song has a stark first-person confessional honesty that cannot be denied.
As someone who likes the occasional tipple, I easily related to both these sentiments and "Got to Give It Up" seemed like a natural song for me to tackle, especially since within Thin Lizzy's cannon, the tune never seemed to receive as much fanfare as it deserves, as both a hard-driving musical and lyrical masterpiece.
I took a couple stabs at covering the song acoustically, but otherwise relatively straight-forwardly -- up-tempo, power chords. However, something quickly became apparent: buried below it's riff-rock exterior, "Got to Give It Up" is a deeply emotional recounting of despair. Exacerbating these emotions is the knowledge that Thin Lizzy frontman Phil Lynott died prematurely at the age of 36 after succumbing to complications from drug and alcohol abuse. Rarely in music history has a single song so specifically foreshadowed a musician's death.
Armed with this knowledge, lyrically the song becomes less barroom rocker and more a confessional from beyond the grave. With the references to "mama" and "pa" and "brother" and "sister" it almost stands as a final apologetic note to family, friends and fans for a lifelong battle that eventually took a man's life.
So with this in mind, I reevaluated my cover, slowing the tempo and focusing on a spare soundscape that would cause the intimacy of the song to rise above its original rock arrangement.
Lyrically, I made a couple adjustments as well. Having never dealt with "the heavy stuff" myself, I altered the perspective of the third verse from first-person the third and repurposed some lyrics from an earlier demo version of the song, leaving the final verse as (hopefully) a loving tribute to Phil and the end of his life.
Part first person confessional from beyond the grave and, now, part eulogy for a beloved rock icon, I hope this new interpretation of "Got to Give It Up" will not only shed new light on this song, but also renew people's appreciation for the original version and for Phil's life and work in general, while also reminding people that though drugs are part of the "sex, drugs and rock & roll" trifecta, sometimes we do "got to give it up," if even just enough to keep us from succumbing to our demons.