This Date in Music History: March 19

Musicians who died too soon and happy birthday to Terry Hall of The Specials

Mar 19, 2012 at 10:51 am
click to enlarge Mother Love Bone, with Andrew Wood (under the baby leg) (Photo: PolyGram Records)
Mother Love Bone, with Andrew Wood (under the baby leg) (Photo: PolyGram Records)

This date in music history is a sad one, marking the "gone too soon" deaths of several young musicians with a lot ahead of them.

• Guitarist Paul Kossoff was the cofounder of British Rock band Free with singer Paul Rodgers and bassist Andy Fraser. The band's 1970 Fire and Water album spawned the band's best-known song, "All Right Now," but the band split by the end of that year. They reformed in 1972 and put out two more albums before calling it quits for good. Kossoff did solo work, played with many other artists and formed a band called Back Street Crawler. The guitarist was in poor health in the years after Free, reportedly due to drug problems and frustration over the demise of his most successful musical project. Kossoff died on a flight from L.A. to New York in 1976 from heart problems. His father spent the rest of his life campaigning against the perils of drug abuse, even doing a touring one-man show about his son. Kossoff's headstone contains the epitaph, "All Right Now."

Kossoff was 25.

• Thirty years ago today, guitar great Randy Rhoads, who played with Quiet Riot but became legendary for his work with Ozzy Osbourne, died. The day after a concert with Ozzy in Knoxville, the Classical-influenced six-stringer and the rest of the band stopped at an airstrip for some "joyriding." Rhoads was afraid of flying, but hopped on a small plane because he was told they'd do nothing risky (stylist Rachel Youngblood had a heart condition, so the pilot promised to take it easy) and Rhoads wanted to take some photos from the air. The plane buzzed the band tour bus twice, but on its third attempt, one of the wings was clipped by the the bus and the pilot lost control. The plane went through a tree, crashed into a garage and burst into flames. The pilot, Youngblood and Rhoads all died, their bodies burned beyond recognition.
Rhoads was 25. Here's Ozzy, years later, listening to Rhoads' alleged last recorded guitar solo for the first time in pure awe.

• When the "Proto Grunge" band Green River broke up in 1988, the band split into two new groups. Mark Arm and Steve Turner formed the influential Mudhoney, while Bruce Fairweather, Jeff Ament and Stone Gossard formed the glammy Rock band Mother Love Bone with young, enigmatic singer Andrew Wood. MLB signed with PolyGram and released an EP. Then, just days before its debut album was to be released, Wood was found passed out by his girlfriend. He had overdosed on heroin. Placed on life support, Wood died three days after being admitted to the hospital, on this date in 1990. (Ament and Gossard would solider on, finding a new singer — Eddie Vedder — and forming Pearl Jam.)

Wood was 24.

• Drummer Jeff Ward was a successful drummer from the Ministry camp, meaning he worked with bands like Revolting Cocks, Lard and, of course, Ministry. Ward also spent time playing drums with Nine Inch Nails. The drummer (who also worked with a band called Low Pop Suicide) committed suicide on this date in 1993 by locking himself in his garage with the car running.

Ward was 30. Here's a track from another Ministry side project, 1000 Homo DJs, featuring Ward on "cop vocals."

Click on for Born This Day featuring Bun B, Billy Sheehan, Ricky Wilson and Terry Hall:

—-Born This Day: Musical movers and shakers sharing a March 19 birthday include guitarist for influential British Rock band The Zombies, Paul Atkinson (1946); bass virtuoso (Mr. Big, Davis Lee Roth's band) Billy Sheehan (1953); late guitarist for New Wave legends The B-52s, Ricky Wilson (1953); rapper and half of Southern Hip Hop heroes UGK, Bun B (1973); Indie Folk singer/songwriter Mason Jennings (1975); guitarist/syth-ist for Indie Electro band CSS, Ana Rezende (1983) and British singer Terry Hall (1959).

Hall first came to prominence as singer for The Specials, perhaps the most important band of the 2 Tone Ska revival (named for the 2 Tone label, which was founded by the band's Jerry Dammers). The band's 1979 self-titled album was a landmark release, featuring Ska staples "A Message to You Rudy" and "Gangsters," among others.

After the 1980 album More Specials, Hall — along with Specials Lynval Golding and Neville Staple — formed the more Pop-based trio Fun Boy Three. That band's second album contained a version of "Our Lips Our Sealed," The Go-Go's hit which Hall co-wrote with Go-Go Jane Wiedlin.

After FB3, Hall formed The Colourfield and other bands and also contributed guest vocals to recordings by fellow artists. In 2008, after years of resistance, it was announced that The Specials would reform. The band has since done several big, well-received shows — where they primarily play that first classic album — and has been booked for the big Olympic closing concert in London alongside Blur and New Order this summer.

The Specials influenced a lot of artists the world over, but particularly in the U.K. And not just Ska bands — one of the group's biggest fans was the late Amy Winehouse, who joined the band on stage a few times before her death last year. Here's one of those times (from 2009):