Born on February 19th 1942, fourth child and third son in the family. His father was a constable in the Royal Ulster Constabulary from Strangford, County Down who played the fiddle. His mother, originally from the Markets in Belfast played the piano.
Coulter says of his childhood, “Our house was always full of music”.
He attended St. Columb’s in Derry and Queen’s University in Belfast. In 1964 and went to London where he got a job with a music publisher in Tin Pan Alley (Denmark Street) and after a few years linked up with Scottish songwriter Bill Martin.
Coulter also played as a session pianist in recording studios or for concerts with artists such as Van Morrison, Tom Jones, Jerry Lee Lewis and The Rolling Stones. In 1967, one of Coulter and Martin’s songs, ‘Puppet On A String’, sung by Sandie Shaw, won the Eurovision Song Contest. The song ‘Congratulations’ was runner-up the following year and two years later Londonderry girl Rosemary Brown, Dana, won with ‘All Kinds Of Everything’.
Coulter began working in the genre of Irish folk music, producing albums for Planxty, the Furey Brothers and The Dubliners. He formed an especially close bond with the Dubliners, writing ‘The Town I Loved So Well’ and ‘Scorn Not His Simplicity’ for them. The Fureys, too, had success with his songs, notably ‘Steal Away’ and ‘The Old Man’.
In 1984 Phil Coulter assembled an orchestra and recorded Classic Tranquillity which became the biggest selling album in Ireland, lead to further albums and concert tours around the world including four sell-out shows in Carnegie Hall.
Since then, he has continued to record albums, both as a solo performer and with other musicians.
Phil Coulter’s anthemic song for Derry, The Town I Loved So Well is a lament for the state of the place during the Troubles.