Cybermidi’s latest sequence, “Sweet Life” reminded me of its composer and singer, Paul Davis, who died recently just one day after his 60th birthday, of a heart attack. There was never a lot written about the man during his lifetime. He was an unassuming, low-key kind of guy who stayed out of the spotlight when not performing. He released eight albums and six singles during his career, which began at the tender age of 22 back in 1970 when he signed with Bang Records. His highest charting single was “Cool Night,” which peaked at number two. “I Go Crazy” didn’t get any higher than number 7 on the charts, but broke the record for longest stay on the charts at more than 40 weeks. Another Davis hit, “’65 Love Affair” also reached the Top 10, as did 3 other hits during his career. He was inducted into the Jimmie Rodgers Hall of Fame in 1987.
After delving into Davis’ death, I got curious about other musicians’ demises and found the following:
Creedence Clearwater’s rhythm guitarist, Tom Fogerty (brother to John) died of AIDS from a blood transfusion. Mike Smith, lead singer with The Dave Clark Five, died of respiratory complications after being paralyzed in a fall. Buddy Miles, who recorded an album with Carlos Santana in Hawaii, died at age 60 of congestive heart failure.
Singer/songwriter Dan Fogelberg succumbed to prostate cancer last December. Dan Hartman, of The Edgar Winter Group, died from a brain tumor in 1994. He co-wrote “Frankenstein” and “Free Ride.” Cancer of the throat, lung and brain claimed Beatles’ guitarist George Harrison, who managed to survive a stabbing attack by an intruder into his home.
Soul icon Otis Redding was just 27 when his plane went down near Madison, Wisconsin in 1967. His “Dock Of The Bay” climbed the charts after his death. Singer/songwriter Jim Croce also died in a plane crash back in 1970. John Denver’s plane ran out of gas and plummeted into the ocean, silencing his voice forever. Other plane crash fatalities include Buddy Holly and Richie Valens back in 1959. Stevie Ray Vaughn’s helicopter crashed near Alpine Valley, Wisconsin in 1989. The plane carrying the Lynyrd Skynyrd band crashed, killing lead singer Ronnie Van Zant as well as guitarist Steve Gains. Former teen crooner, Ricky Nelson’ plane didn’t exactly crash, but it did catch fire with him and his band inside. He didn’t make it out. Not that other means of travel are any safer. Duane Allman died on his motorcycle.
Accidents made up quite a few of the deaths mentioned. And then there were other deaths brought on by sheer stupidity. Examples include Jimi Hendrix, who overdosed on drugs at his own hand. Al Wilson of Canned Heat also overdosed, as did Janis Joplin and Jim Morrison. Who knew drugs were bad for you? Elvis apparently didn’t, as he took enough pills to choke an elephant, which, in turn, stopped up his system. He died on the toilet, unable to relieve himself, and popped a blood vessel.
Fame has its price, as these next victims would attest, if they could. Brian Jones, founder of The Rolling Stones, supposedly drowned in his swimming pool, but now, more than 30 years later, a former acquaintance has come forward to say that the guitarist was actually murdered. Also drowned was Beach Boys drummer, Dennis Wilson. Ironically, Dennis was the only one of the Beach Boys who could actually surf, despite all those songs about surfing.
Fame caught up with John Lennon on December 8, 1980 right outside his Dakota apartment. A deranged fan (I won’t give him any further notoriety by naming him) shot him five times and then just stood there, waiting to be arrested.
What goes around comes around, I guess. Terry Knight, former manager to Grand Funk Railroad, was found stabbed to death. He had at one point sued Grand Funk for breach of contract and took everything they owned, including their instruments right off the stage. Grand Fund started over and scored several more hits without him.
There were also some musicians who weren’t murdered or who didn’t die of any illness or plane crash or motorcycle mishap. They checked out of this world by their own hand. I guess they just couldn’t wait to see what was on the other side, if anything. Nirvana’s Kurt Cobain shot himself before he ever saw his thirties. Singer Del Shannon, who wrote “Runaway” for himself as well as “I Go To Pieces” for Peter and Gordon, also shot himself, apparently despondent over being pigeonholed as a has-been oldies circuit act. Maybe if he’d just waited it out, who knows?
I saved this next musician for last because I found it very strange. There’s a saying that says something to the effect of, “Live by the sword and you’ll die by the sword” or close to it. Perhaps that applies to former Yardbird guitarist Keith Relf, who “lived by the guitar and died by the guitar,” so to speak. Keith was electrocuted while playing his guitar, which was not grounded, while standing over a hidden gas line by the fireplace in his basement.
Personally I’d rather go like Country Western singer Eddie Arnold…old age.
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