Saturday, January 3, 2009

Twitch And Shout

The death of a rock star is not without commercial potential. I was reminded of this truth by this afternoon’s programming on TV LAND, which has devoted several hours of its programming to Elvis Presley, whose birthday is fast approaching (January 8). While the deaths of Buddy Holly, Sam Cooke, and Brian Jones antedated the 1970s, the sheer number of deaths of rock stars in the 1970s—Elvis’s among them—was significant, and the number of books published since serve as constant reminders that they are still dead (see the partial bibliography below).

Having recently submitted a book proposal on the subject of Neil Young’s Tonight’s the Night (June 1975), the issue of those who “lived and died for rock and roll” has preoccupied me (even if that dedication is perhaps ironic). Young’s album is dedicated to his friends, guitarist Danny Whitten (died 1972) and roadie Bruce Berry (died 1973), but there were any number of other deaths that preceded the release of Young’s classic album:

Duane Allman (The Allman Brothers Band), 1971
Darrell Banks (“Open the Door to Your Heart”), 1970
Bobby Bloom (“Montego Bay”), 1974
Graham Bond (Graham Bond Organization), 1974
Bill Chase (Chase), 1974
Miss Chrissie (GTOs), 1972
Arlester Christian (Dyke & the Blazers), 1971
Brian Cole (The Association), 1972
Jim Croce, 1973
King Curtis (“Charlie Brown”), 1971
Bobby Darin (“Splish Splash”), 1974
Nick Drake, (Bryter Later), 1974
Don Drummond (The Skatalites), 1971
Cass Elliot (The Mamas & the Papas), 1974
Mary Ann Ganser (The Shangri-Las), 1971
Pete Ham (Badfinger), April 1975
Lee Harvey (Stone the Crows), 1972
Jimi Hendrix (The Jimi Hendrix Experience), 1970
Janis Joplin (Big Brother & the Holding Company), 1970
Jerry Lee Lewis, Jr. (son of Jerry Lee Lewis), 1973
Billy Marcus (New York Dolls), 1972
Clyde McPhatter (Dominoes; Drifters), 1972
Robby McIntosh (Average White Band), 1974
Jim Morrison (The Doors), 1971 (Parisian grave is pictured)
Barry Oakley (The Allman Brothers Band), 1972
Lowman Pauling (The “5” Royales), 1973
Rod “Pig Pen” McKernan, 1973
Gram Parsons (The Byrds, The Flying Burrito Brothers), 1974
Steve Perron (The Children) 1973
Bobby Ramirez (White Trash), 1970
John Raynes (Monotones), 1972
James Sheppard (The Heartbeats; Shep & the Limelights), 1970
Billy Stewart (“Summertime”), 1970
Rory Storm (The Hurricanes), 1972
Vinnie Taylor (Sha Na Na), 1974
Tammi Terrell (duo partner with Marvin Gaye), 1970
Gene Vincent, 1971
Clarence White (The Byrds), 1973
Paul Williams (The Temptations), 1973
Al Wilson (Canned Heat), 1970
Harris Womack (Valentinos), 1974

Gary J. Katz, Death By Rock ‘n’ Roll. Citadel Press, 1995.

R. Gary Patterson, Take a Walk on the Dark Side: Rock and Roll Myths, Legends, and Curses. Fireside, 2004. Note: A revision and expansion of Hellhounds on Their Trail: Tales From the Rock ‘n’ Roll Graveyard. Dowling Press, 1998.

Jeff Pike, The Death of Rock 'N' Roll: Untimely Demises, Morbid Preoccupations, and Premature Forecasts of Doom in Pop Music. Faber & Faber, 1993.

Jeremy Simmonds, The Encyclopedia of Dead Rock Stars: Heroin, Handguns, and Ham Sandwiches. Updated Edition. Chicago Review Press, 2008.

Dave Thompson, Better to Burn Out: The Cult of Death in Rock ‘n’ Roll. Thunder’s Mouth Press, 1998. Note: Dave Thompson is also the author of Never Fade Away: The Kurt Cobain Story.

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