John Lydon, former Sex Pistols frontman, to compete to represent Ireland in Eurovision

Singer, whose parents came from Cork and Galway, goes up against five other acts hoping to perform in Liverpool

John Lydon, aka Johnny Rotten, once the snarling anti-establishment epitome of the punk revolution, has entered a song to compete to be Ireland’s Eurovision entry.

The former Sex Pistols lead singer, self-styled anarchist and hellraiser, will participate in the Irish final on February 3rd under the guise of Public Image Ltd (PiL) which he founded in 1978 after the Sex Pistols brief tenure as punk trailblazers ended.

Hawaii, the ballad the 66-year-old frontman has submitted, is a tribute to his German wife Nora Forster (80) who he married in 1979 and is as far removed from his heady punk days as can be imagined. She is now suffering from Alzheimer’s disease.

“It is dedicated to everyone going through tough times on the journey of life, with the person they care for the most,” Lydon says. “It’s also a message of hope that ultimately love conquers all.


“We’ve lived together for 47 years, Nora and I, so she must have some clues as to who I am and what I can get up to.”

The song’s chorus ends with the refrain “remember me as I remember you”.

Representing Ireland in the Eurovision is a sort of homecoming for Lydon, whose parents John Christopher and Eileen Lydia were both Irish. His father, a crane driver, was from Tuam, Co Galway, while his mother was from Carrigrohane, Co Cork.

Lydon grew up working-class in Finsbury Park, London during the 1960s and 1970s and was aware of his Irish roots from the beginning as he wrote in his 1994 memoir No Blacks, No Dogs, No Irish. He also wrote of the sting of being regarded as Irish in London, but English when he went to Ireland. He travels on an Irish passport.

Ireland’s Eurovision head of delegation Michael Kealy said it was not the first time Lydon had applied to represent Ireland. He submitted a song to RTÉ five years ago but that was after Ryan O’Shaughnessy had been chosen as the Irish entrant in 2018.

“I thought it was a passing interest, but clearly it isn’t,” Mr Kealy said. “I’m delighted an artist of his calibre is taking part.”

Lydon submitted the song knowing that he would have to face off against five other entrants in the national final takes place on a special Late Late Show on Friday, February 3rd, where the winner will be chosen by a combination of national jury, international jury, and public vote.

“It won’t be a coronation. He won’t find it a walk in the park by any means,” Mr Kealy suggested. “He has always been a disrupter. He likes to surprise people. He did I’m a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here, he did an ad for butter some years ago. He’s a bloke who likes to surprise and doesn’t like to be pigeon-holed.”

The winner will represent Ireland at the 67th Eurovision Song Contest in Liverpool in May. The UK is hosting the song contest on behalf of Ukraine which won last year’s contest.

He faces competition from ADGY, the Donegal singer-songwriter Andrew Carr, with his song Too Good For Your Love; Connolly, a 17-year-old Galway singer-songwriter who has entered Midnight Summer Night; indie pop singer-songwriter Leila Jane with her song Wild; and Longford duo K Muni & ND (Kofi Appiah and Nevlonne Dampare) who will performed their self-penned track Down in the Rain.

Lydon is expected to face the stiffest competition, however, from the sixth entry Wild Youth who have already achieved a lot of success in Ireland, have a high name recognition and have toured with the likes of Niall Horan, Lewis Capaldi and The Script. We are One was written in Sweden with Grammy nominated songwriter Jörgen Elofsson.

While Lydon is an immediately recognisable figure to music fans of a certain generation, most of those involved in the public vote are aged under 30.

Nevertheless his entry will pique interest in what has been years of failure on the part of any of the Irish entries to make it beyond the semi-final stage.

Ronan McGreevy

Ronan McGreevy

Ronan McGreevy is a news reporter with The Irish Times