This Date in Music History: April 17

Eddie Cochran dies at 21 and 'Don Kirshner's Rock Concert' says no to lip-synching

Apr 17, 2012 at 10:20 am
Eddie Cochran
Eddie Cochran

On this day in 1960, Rockabilly idol and Rock & Roll trailblazer Eddie Cochran died while on tour in the U.K. at the age of 21. On the night of April 16, Cochran was in a taxi when it blew a tire and crashed into a lamppost. Cochran was reportedly thrown from the vehicle when he dove on his girlfriend, songwriter Sharon Sheeley, to shield her and went out the car door that had been flung open. He died in the hospital the next afternoon. Also in the car was fellow rocker Gene Vincent, who survived the crash but suffered serious injuries.

It's hard to overstate how influential Cochran was in the development and increasing popularity of Rock & Roll. A member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Rockabilly Hall of Fame, Cochran is responsible for such indispensable Rock staples as "Summertime Blues" and "C'mon Everybody," and influenced and/or was covered by artists like The Who, The Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin, Bruce Springsteen, T. Rex, Hendrix, Rush, The Sex Pistols … pretty much the entire first decade of Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductees. Legend has it that Paul McCartney elbowed his way into John Lennon's The Quarrymen because his future bandmates were dazzled that he knew the chords and lyrics to Cochran's"Twenty Flight Rock."

It's rather stunning that someone who didn't live to see 22 could have such a profound effect on music. Here's a bit of Cochran featured in the 1956 film The Girl Can't Help It.

Click on for Born This Day featuring Redman, Maynard James Keenan, Liz Phair and Don Kirshner.


Born This Day: Musical movers and shakers sharing an April 17 birthday include early Liverpool-born Rock & Roll star Billy Fury (1940); composer and keyboardist ("Miami Vice Theme") Jan Hammer (1948); frontman for Punk/Pop pioneers The Buzzcocks, Pete Shelley (1955); frontman for Tool and A Perfect Circle, Maynard James Keenan (1964); Indie Rock goddess Liz Phair (1967); MC/actor Reggie Noble, better known as Redman (1970); former "Posh Spice" with Spice Girls, Victoria Posh Beckham (1974); singer/guitarist for Prog/Death band Opeth (1974); and Rock & Roll impresario, Don Kirshner (1934).

This past Saturday, Kirshner was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame for his work as a publisher, producer and manager. The so-called "Man with the Golden Ear" worked with songwriters like Carole King, Neil Sedaka, Neil Diamond and Gerry Goffin, as well as "bands" like Kansas, The Archies and The Monkees.

Kirshner was also a pioneer of "Rock music on TV" with his live concert series, Don Kirshner's Rock Concert. The show was an early non-lip-synching outlet for Rock bands and performers between 1973-1981. The program had a remarkable lineup over the years, featuring the likes of The Rolling Stones (who were on the premiere episode), David Bowie, Fleetwood Mac, The Ramones, The Police, New York Dolls, Journey, KISS, Todd Rundgren, Weather Report, Waylon Jennings and, uh, the Village People, among many others. The program was also an outlet for young, hot comedians like David Letterman, Billy Crystal and Jay Leno.

Kirshner — who was often mocked for his wooden delivery as a TV host (most notably by Paul Shaffer, who would play Kirsh on Saturday Night Live in the ’70s) — unfortunately died before he was inducted into the Rock Hall. He passed away in January of 2011 at the age of 76.

Kirshner's Rock Concert series just recently made its way to DVD. Here are a few clips.