Rick Danko was a canadian-born musician who sang, played Bass and acoustic guitar for the band. He sang lead on such rock classics as “The Weight” and “Stagefright”‘. Although popular with the rock critics. A big hit with fellow musicians but never the record buying public, “The Band”‘s albums sold moderately.The band’s first album “Music from Big Pink” contained the song classics “Chest Fever” and “The Weight”. Bob Dylan painted the album cover. The next album was simply entitled “The Band” and contained the classics “Rag Mama Rag”, “Up on Cripple Creek” and “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down”. The latter becoming a big hit in 1971 for Joan Baez. In 1972 they released the 2 record live set “Rock of Ages” which is considered by most their strongest recording. Internal tensions within the band began to mount and subsequent releases sold poorly. In 1976 they recorded their swan song “The Last Waltz” which featured a myriad of guest artists including Bob Dylan and then broke-up for good. “The Band” was also famous for backing Bob Dylan and the bootlegged “Basement Tapes”. (which since has been released on CD). Danko fell into the role of the declining rock star. He formed a series of bands, did a couple of solo projects, toured the classic rock circuit and then died in his sleep on December 10th, 1999 at the age of 56
Bobby Darin was born as Walden Robert Cassotto on May 14th 1936 in The Bronx, New York. During his childhood he contracted rheumatic fever resulting in damage to his heart. As a teenager Darin taught himself to play guitar, drums and piano but it was his on stage presence behind the mic were he excelled the most. In 1958 at the age of 22 Bobby Darin reportively walked into a recording studio and in twenty minutes wrote “Splish-Splash” which became a big hit in 1958 and established him as a teenage idol. In 1959 he scored his only number one hit with the cool sauve jazzy “Mack the Knife”. His other big hit was “Dream Lover”. He became a top attraction in Las Vegas and paled around with Wayne Newton. As a matter of fact, “Danke Scheone” was going to be his follow-up to “Mack the Knife” but he gave his arrangement of the song to Wayne Newton. Bobby Darin was also shocked to find out that his sister was really his mother, some say he never fully recovered from this. Always having a bad ticker it finally caught up with him. On December 20th of 1973 he underwent heart surgery to repair damaged valves and died on the operating table at the age of 37. His body was donated to “medical science”
Jim Croce was a talented singer-songwriter folk guitar player. Jim hailed from Philadelphia PA and showed an interest in music at an early age. He married his high school sweetheart in 1963 and together they formed a duo which was unsuccessful. He became a master of the acoustic guitar and played alot for spare change and at college partys. After he graduated from college he became a disc jockey for a short time before deciding to pursue music as a full time career. To supplement his income he took a job as a trucker. It was his experiences as a truck driver that would provide the lyrical fuel for his later songs. By 1970 Jim had hit rock bottom with his music career going nowhere. In addition to this, he had signed a very bad record deal and was contemplating giving up music. The turning point in his life came when his wife told him she was pregnant. He got down to business and in one week wrote most of the material for his first album. “You Don’t Mess Around With Jim” was released to rave reviews and Jim began the cycle of constant touring. “Life and Times” released in 1973 spawned the lounge-act classic “Bad Bad Leroy Brown”. Although by now he was a big success he received very little income from his record sales. (His wife would eventually win control of his music after his death). Vowing to quit touring Croce hit the road for one last time, it was a fateful decision that would cost him his life. Jim Croce died September 20th, 1973 when his tour plane crashed into a tree upon take-off. His “I’ve Got a Name” album was released posthumously and contained the hit song of the same name. “Time in a Bottle” from his first album was released as a single after his death and hit number one. Jim Croce was 30 years old.
Sam Cooke started out as a gospel singer with “The Soul Stirrers”. He went solo after being kicked-out and turned to mainstream pop. Sam wrote and recorded classics such as: “Twisting the night away “, “Another Saturday Night”, “You Send Me”, “Wonderful World”, “Only Sixteen” and “Chain Gang”. On December 11th of 1964 he was shot dead by a motel owner who claimed he was trying to break into her room while dressed in only boxer shorts. He was 33 years old.
Brian Connolly was lead singer for the British rock group “Sweet” who enjoyed moderate success during the mid to late seventies. Their first hit was the FM bubble-gumish “Little Willie” released in 1973, followed by “Ballroom Blitz” in 1975. “Fox on the run” also hit in 1976. They overhauled their sound and came out with the #8 world-wide smash “Love is Like Oxygen” in 1978. This was their musical peak and the group eventually fell from popularity. Brian was known to hang out with Keith Moon and the two did quite alot of partying together. After years of over indulgence in the “rock-n-roll lifestyle”. The liver gave out and after a series of heart attacks he passed away at the age of 52.
Harry Chapin was a folk-rock balladeer best known for his song “Taxi”. He enjoyed moderate success during the seventies. On July 16th of 1981 while on his way to a benefit concert in New York City on the Long Island expressway when he was involved in a traffic accident that proved fatal. He was driving a VW Beetle and rear-ended a tractor trailor and fried to death. Harry Chapin was 38 years old.
Known as the man in black Johnny Cash was born in Kingsland Arkansas February 26th , 1932.The son of a Southern Baptist sharecropper he began performing as early as age 12. In 1955 he began recording for Sam Phillips “Sun” records. Known as “Johnny Cash and the Tennessee Two” (guitarist Luther Perkins and bassist Marshall Grant) his first single was “Cry Cry Cry” which reached #14. The follow-up was “Folsom Prison Blues” which reached number #5. The following year he released his most enduring song that would establish him as a superstar. The million selling copy “I Walk The Line”. He left Sun records in 1958 because Sam Phillips wouldn’t let him record a gospel album. He signed with Columbia records where he would remain until the label dropped him in 1986. The sixties began his “wild-man” period where he ran rampant hopped-up on booze and uppers. He then met June Carter of the famous Carter Family who got him off the drugs(hhmmm….bummer) , although there would be relapses. She also wrote “Ring Of Fire” which became another big hit for Cash. I had the original 45rpm on red vinyl but I smashed it up when I turned 15 and got my first Alice Cooper album.The two were married in 1968 and released a series of duets together : “Jackson”,”If I Were a Carpenter” and Dylan’s “ It Ain’t Me Babe”. The highlight of his career was his two live albums, 1968’s “At Folsom Prison” and 1969’s “Johnny Cash: At San Quentin” which was Cash’s best selling album staying number one on the charts for 4 weeks and contained the hit single “A Boy Named Sue” (#2). In June of 1969 ABC launched “The Johnny Cash Show” which lasted 2 years. At this point’s Cash’s popularity began to wane although he was still revered by country and rock alike. In 1985 Cash resurfaced with Willie Nelson, Kris Kristofferson and Waylon Jennings as “The Highwaymen”. They recorded 4 albums together. In 1996 Tom Petty produced his “Unchained “ album. By now health problems began to plague Cash though he continued to record. His last album is considered a masterpiece “American III: Solitary Man”. In May of 2003 his wife of 35 years “June Carter Cash” cashed it in. Some say this zapped his will to live. On September 12th , 2003 Johnny Cash died in Nashville at the age of 71 due to complications from Diabetes. Johnny Cash remains a legend, a country and rock pioneer and a symbol of the undying American spirit. “The Man in Black” was buried in a black coffin.
Eric Carr answered an ad in the “New York Times” and wound up in the group “Kiss”. The group was known for it’s outrageous stage act complete with Gene Simmon’s blood dripping foot-long tongue.The group was never seen in public without it’s trademark make-up. They chalked-up some FM airplay with tunes like “Strutter” and their signature tune “I Want To Rock-n-Roll All Night (and party everyday)”.In 1976 they released the classic two-album set “Kiss Alive”. The group made somewhat of a comeback with the M-TV generation X’ers sans make-up. Eric Carr died of cancer on September 24th,1991 at the age of 41.
Glen Buxton played lead guitar in Alice Cooper’s band. He co-wrote a number of their popular tunes. “Alice Cooper” broke new ground as one of the first shock-rock groups. Their first two albums , “Easy Action” and “Pretties For You” generated little interest. On the album cover for “Easy Action” they were all dressed in skirts. Although mild by today’s standards the name “Alice” (real name Vincent Furnier) caused quite a “stir”. In 1971 they released their breakthough album “Love It To Death” which included the hit single “I’m Eighteen”. The album boasted a wild looking cover with Alice sticking his thumb out thru the zipper like a penis. (Later releases had the thumb airbrushed out) Late that year they released perhaps their greatest album “Killer”. This album spawned the hit “Be My Lover”. It also had a tune entitled “Dead Babies”. The album ended with a mock hanging , but in concert for the “Killer” tour , Alice would actually walk up the gallows and get hanged. It was a sight to behold. The master of shock rock was at his finest. In 1972 they released “School’s Out”. The theme of course , centered around school and it’s trials and tribulations with a “West Side Story” rip-off of the “Sharks and The Jets” gang fight. The original album cover folded out to a school desk and came complete with a pair of panties around the record made of handi-wipe material. 1973 the group released “Billion Dollar Babies” which yielded “Elected” and “No More Mr. Nice Guy”. Although he claimed not to do drugs , Alice was pounding down the Budweiser in record porportions. By 1974’s “Muscle of Love” it was clear that something was wrong. The album came in a plain cardboard box ! No snakes, no wild mascara around the eyes, no babies, no nothing. The record failed to yield a single also !!!! This was the end of the original band. Alice’s later releases lacked the biting guitar the original band created. It also marked the beginning of the end for Alice who would end up in a sanitarium. Glen evenually turned away from music and spent his last years as a farmer in Mason City , Iowa. Glen Buxton died of pneumonia on October 19th, 1997 at the age of 49.
Paul Butterfield was a white harmonica player from the south side of Chicago. Paul Butterfield was considered the premier harmonica player of his time. In 1965 “The Paul Butterfield Blues Band” was released and remains a classic to this day. Caught up in sixties flower-power, subsequent releases strayed from the blues format and lacked the power and intensity of their debut album. The band also appeared at Woodstock, and their song “Love March” is featured on the soundtrack album. His death on May 4th, 1987 at the age of 44 was contributed to alcohol and drug abuse.