Our continuing coverage and commentary on events that shape the rock music universe...
Eagles guitarist and co-founder Glenn Frey passed away today at age 67 in New York City. According to a message posted on the band's website, Frey died of complications involving rheumatoid arthritis, acute ulcerative colitis and pneumonia. He is survived by a wife and family. Frey formed the band in 1970 with Don Henley, a drum-playing acquaintance he had recently met. Guitarist Bernie Leadon and bass player Randy Meisner also joined the initial line-up. Throughout the seventies and with the early addition of new members Joe Walsh and Timothy B. Schmit, Frey's vocals were featured on the songs Take It Easy, Peaceful Easy Feeling, Already Gone and New Kid In Town. An additional member, Don Felder had joined the band in 1974. In 1976, the Eagles released what was to become the decade's most popularly and critically acclaimed set of rock music - their Hotel California album. Unfortunately, with massive success also came pressure and interpersonal animosity. Two years after the release of their next album, 1978's The Long Run, which featured the hit single Heartache Tonight, the band broke up. Later by the mid-eighties, Frey released a pair of his own successful solo hit singles - The Heat Is On and Smuggler's Blues. The breakup came about in large part due to personal rifts between various members, especially Frey and Henley. After reuniting fourteen years later in 1994, the Eagles released a new album - the aptly named Hell Freezes Over and headed out on the road to support it with a tour of the same name. In 1998 the band was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. Following Frey's death, Don Henley released this statement: "We were family, and like most families, there was some dysfunction. But, the bond we forged 45 years ago was never broken, even during the 14 years that the Eagles were dissolved." He continued, "Glenn was the one who started it all. He was the spark plug, the man with the plan. He had an encyclopedic knowledge of popular music and a work ethic that wouldn't quit. He was funny, bullheaded, mercurial, generous, deeply talented and driven." "He loved his wife and kids more than anything. We are all in a state of shock, disbelief and profound sorrow." Last month, Frey's deteriorating health resulted in the band deciding to postpone attending a Kennedy Center honor award ceremony. (January 18, 2016)
He was a singer, song-writer, producer and entrepreneur. But above all, David Bowie, who passed away on his sixty-ninth birthday following a battle with cancer was, in every sense of the word, an artist. Bowie, who's full birth name was David Robert Jones, was born January 8, 1947 in London England. Like many British youth of his generation, he became enraptured by rock'n'roll, and started playing saxophone and other instruments in local neighborhood bands. Blessed with a near-boundless imagination and an almost magical ability to engage and absorb multiple influences, Bowie was fascinated and inspired by science fiction in general - and the real-world late sixties "space race" in particular. The groundbreaking Stanley Kubrick motion picture 2001: A Space Odyssey had a profound effect on the young artist, inspiring him to write and record the song Space Oddity, which landed him on a slot on the 1969 British pop charts. Four years later, the song charted in North America and other parts of the world. After relocating to the U.S. in 1974, Bowie released the albums Diamond Dogs and, the following year, Young Americans featuring the hit Fame, a collaboration with John Lennon. It wasn't long before the silver screen came calling. In 1976, Bowie starred in the motion picture The Man Who Fell To Earth. In the early seventies he had adopted a new, stylized "glam" look and persona which influenced the albums Hunky Dory, The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars, and Aladdin Sane. In 1981 he collaborated with British rockers Queen on their song Under Pressure. David Bowie's next calling was live theater where he took on the lead role in Broadway's The Elephant Man. At 1985's Live Aid, the world's first trans-Atlantic "satellite" concert, Bowie performed alongside Mick Jagger for a duet-cover of Dancing In The Street. 1989 saw the formation of his new band, Tin Machine as well as it's first album release. The nineties brought more albums - and changes. A sci-fi inspired album titled 1.Outside was the result of a collaboration with Brian Eno. Bowie's band toured with Nine Inch Nails producing a series of innovative performances where both bands played together on stage. In 1997, Bowie turned to the new techno-pop sound of the late 90's for another album, Earthling. In 2000, he headlined at Britain's renowned Glastonbury Festival and the following year (after the 9/11 attacks) sang Heroes at the Concert For New York City benefit. NYC was also the locale of Bowie's reportedly "final" concert where he performed 3 songs at the 2006 "Keep A Child Alive" charity ball. Two years prior, a tour supporting his 2004 album Reality came to an abrupt halt when Bowie began to exhibit symptoms of a serious heart ailment. In 2013 Bowie released the retrospective album The Next Day, which paid a seeming homage to his earlier "glam-rock" sound of decades earlier. The release of his final album "Blackstar" coincided eerily with his death, both in timing (2 days prior) and artistic direction - a bold, jazz infused reconciliation of many powerful forces Bowie had experienced and likely embraced at different times throughout his life. David Bowie is survived by his wife Iman, one daughter and a son from a previous marriage. (January 12, 2016)
Ian "Lemmy" Kilmister, lead singer and bassist of the legendary metal band Motorhead has died at age 70. According to a statement released by the band, Kilmister had been battling poor health for several years only to pass away shortly after being diagnosed with an aggressive form of cancer. Since the band's 1975 formation, Kilmister had been it's longest serving and sole remaining original member in spite of numerous line-up changes. Five years prior, he had spent six months working as a roadie with Jimi Hendrix's tour band. Over the following years he continued performing and working, mostly on the road, and had never married. Kilmister's vocal style was characterized by a distinct "growl" as exemplified in the band's 1980 song Ace of Spades. Although Motorhead's loud and fast performing style was widely classified as "thrash" and "metal," Lemmy tended to shun such labels, preferring to speak of it as mere "rock'n'roll." To date, the band has released eighteen studio albums and had been preparing to launch a 2016 tour across Britain and Europe. However, following Lemmy's death, drummer Mikkey Dee had announced that the tour would not be going ahead. Kilmister was British by birth and had later relocated to Los Angeles. He is survived by a son. (January 3, 2016)
Legendary Yes bassist and co-founder Chris Squire has passed away at age 67 following a battle with acute leukemia. A statement issued by the band on Facebook attributed his "phenomenal bass-playing prowess" as an influence to "countless artists around the world, including many of today's well-known artists." Squire was the only member to remain in place through every one of the many personel changes that had re-shaped the band's lineup and progressive sound since it's 1968 formation. During that period, he had contributed to every recording session and had never missed a tour. Squire's credits also extended to writing and harmony vocals, having co-written 1983's Owner of a Lonely Heart, the band's only No. 1 mainstream chart single. Squire was originally with a band called the Syn before joining up with vocalist Jon Anderson, drummer Bill Bruford, keyboardist Tony Kaye. and guitarist Peter Banks to form Yes. Several of the band's founding members had left and rejoined numerous times over the years. Chris Squire is survived by his wife and five children. (June 28, 2015)
One of popular music's most recognizable voices has been silenced with the passing of British rock singer Joe Cocker. According to his agent, the 70 year old died at his home in Colorado after battling lung cancer for some time. Cocker's energetically soulful, raspy-voiced style afforded him the privilege of being able to elevate many an existing song from being merely recognizable to virtual "standard" status. In 1969, Cocker achieved instant mainstream fame after releasing a cover interpretation of The Beatles' With a Little Help from my Friends. The following year, he delivered a show-stopping rendition of the song at Woodstock. The experience inspired him to immediately set out on his Mad Dogs and Englishmen tour. Like Woodstock, the tour was captured and successfully documented on film. In the mid-seventies fame struck again, this time from the release of Up Where We Belong, a studio recorded duet with U.S. singer Jennifer Warnes. Cocker had once addressed his highly animated on-stage style in terms of a mild frustration at not being able to play a musical instrument while performing. As a result, he rhythmically "air mimed" motions of playing guitars and keyboards - a practice that, over time, became an integral part of his physical performing persona. Cocker had whimsically named his Colorado mansion, situated on a 40 acre property, "Mad Dog." He is survived by his wife Pam. (December 24, 2014)
New Zealand authorities have arrested and charged long time AC/DC drummer Phil Rudd with attempting to procure a murder, threatening to carry out murder and possession of the illicit substances methamphetamine and cannabis. New Zealand media outlets have reported the drugs were found during an October 30 police "raid" of Rudd's home. A message on the band's website states "We've only become aware of Phil's arrest as the news was breaking. "We have no further comment. "Phil's absence will not affect the release of our new album Rock or Bust and upcoming tour next year." Rudd had first joined AC/DC in 1975 and was forced out in 1983. He rejoined in 1992 and has stayed since. Rudd made a preliminary appearance in District Court shortly after the police searched his home. He was then released on bail. A second court date has been scheduled to take place about three weeks from now. These charges were not Rudd's first brush with the law, having already faced charges for cannabis possession in 2010. So far, 2014 hasn't exactly been the best of years for AC/DC. Last spring, the family of guitarist Malcolm Young had announced he was suffering from dementia. The band later announced that Young would be "taking a break from the band due to ill health." The band's 17th studio album, Rock or Bust, is set to be released next month. Sadly, following an amazing forty-one year span of AC/DC releases, this album will be the first to not include Malcolm Young. (November 6, 2014)
UPDATE: The murder procurement charges laid against Phil Rudd have been dropped due to insufficient evidence. The original threat and drug related charges remain. (November 7, 2014)
Another of rock's iconic musicians has passed away. Jack Bruce of the legendary late 60's band, Cream has died at age 71 following a battle with liver disease. Besides playing bass, Bruce shared vocal duties with Cream's guitarist Eric Clapton and drummer Ginger Baker. It's safe to say that two generations of musicians ranging from the likes of Ringo Starr to Flea of the Red Hot Chili Peppers have been inspired and influenced by Bruce's musical prowess and stature. His publicist informed the media that he died peacefully at his home in Suffolk (UK) surrounded by family. (October 27, 2014)
The sole surviving member of The Ramones has died. Drummer Tommy Ramone who had co-founded the band in 1974 with singer Joey, bassist Dee Dee and guitarist Johnny had also served as the band's manager. All members, though unrelated, had adopted "Ramone" as a creatively shared last name. From the earliest days appearing at New York's storied CBGB onwards to a debut album in 1976, the band grew an enviable cult following despite relatively modest mainstream chart success. In 2002, they were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. The final Ramones studio album was the clearly tongue-in-cheek, but never the less fittingly titled Adios Amigos. They disbanded in 1996. Tommy was pre-deceased by Joey (actual name Jeff Hyman) who died of lymphatic cancer in 2001, Dee Dee (Douglas Colvin) who had died of a drug overdose in 2002 and Johnny (John Cummings) who died of prostate cancer in 2004. Tommy's birth name was Erdyli Tamas. He was 65 years of age. (July 12, 2014)
Phil Everly, who along with his brother Don, comprised the ground-breaking fifties era duo the Everly Brothers, has passed away at age 74 from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. The younger, high-noted Everly had spent two weeks in hospital battling the typically serious affliction. Don and Phil had arguably laid the foundation for what was to became rock'n'roll's "signature" vocal style that would soon influence new acts ranging from the Beach Boys to the Beatles. The duo's most well known songs include Bye Bye Love, the softly controversial Wake Up Little Suzie and Cathy's Clown. The brothers began their performing career in 1957, recording 19 "top-40" radio hits prior to 1962. Unfortunately, in later years some latent quarreling began to escalate and by 1973 the brothers had undergone a personal estrangement that led to an abrupt professional breakup. They reunited a decade later, with a concert in London England being their first post-breakup public performance. An album Born Yesterday soon followed boasting a country-rock hit, On The Wings of a Nightingale. Outside the field of music, Phil Everly had performed as an actor in the Clint Eastwood action movie Every Which Way but Loose. Over the years, the Everly Brothers had been inducted into the respective Country Music and Rock and Roll Hall of Fames. (January 5, 2014)
Velvet Underground alumni and godfather-like mentor to many of today's successful alternative indie-style musicians, Lou Reed has passed away at the age of 71. Reed's gaunt, monotone vocal style seemed artfully suited to the often astonishing complexity of his lyrics - something that came to endear Reed's reputation and influence with New York's 70's era avant-garde/punk crowd. He grew up in a middle class Long Island NY household and later attended Syracuse University honing his writing skills and fermenting a personal counter-culture attitude that had taken root earlier out of his parents' staunch resentment toward his natural bi-sexuality. After university, Reed made ends meet by taking on various music writing and performing jobs around New York City. He later began performing in impromptu bands such as the Warlocks and Primitives. Towards the mid-sixties, following the formation of the Velvet Underground, Reed and his band-mates had began rehearsing at the "Factory" studio of avant-garde guru Andy Warhol. The association with Warhol empowered the band's multi-media awareness and participation - embracing art, drugs, photography and motion picture culture alongside that of music. Explicit lyrics became the norm - often tackling then "taboo" topics such as drug use, sexuality and prostitution. After making three albums with the Velvets - including the critically acclaimed masterpiece Heroin, an increasing level of strife among band personal led to Lou Reed's eventual departure in 1970. In the following years he struggled to find his way, often indulging in life-threatening drug and alcohol binges. His solo albums Berlin, Metal Music Machine and the David Bowie produced Transformer that spawned the chart hit Walk On The Wild Side, received mixed reviews ranging from praise to harsh detraction. By the eighties, Reed had cleaned up his drug habit and went on to record albums such as Blue Mask, Legendary Hearts and New Sensations to greater critical approval. Reed's death was due to complications related to a recent liver transplant. In 2008, he had married renowned 80's era music-video performance artist Laurie Anderson following a personal and artistic relationship spanning many years. (October 27, 2013)
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