Are you a fan of The Byrds? They were an American rock band formed in California in the 1960s. The Byrds were one of the pioneers of the folk rock music genre and were the contemporaries of other popular rock groups such as The Beatles and The Rolling Stones.
The Byrds is as much an influence on rock music as their more popular contemporaries and their music is loved by rock fans to this day. We can only hope that their music continues to live on and that newer generations will grow to appreciate their artistry.
Sadly, some of The Byrds members have passed away. They left behind incredible legacies that shouldn’t be forgotten.
Let’s learn about all The Byrds members who have sadly died and about their incredible lives and careers…
Gene Clark was one of the founding members of The Byrds and was one of the lead singers and songwriters for the band.
He was born as Harold Eugene Clark on November 17, 1944, in Tipton, Missouri. Gene grew up in Kansas City, Missouri, and learned how to play guitar and harmonica at a young age. He was introduced to music by his father, and it wasn’t long until he decided to pursue music as a career.
Gene Clark helped form The Byrds in 1964. He was instrumental in creating some of the band’s most famous songs. These included “I’ll Feel a Whole Lot Better” “Set You Free This Time” “Here Without You” “You Won’t Have To Cry” and “Eight Miles High” among many others.
He was lauded for his songwriting skills and is often credited as being a major factor behind the band’s success. Unfortunately, this didn’t always translate well with his fellow bandmates. At times, they resented him for earning extra money for his songwriting. He also hated touring at times as he disliked traveling – he especially didn’t like to fly!
Nevertheless, he even after his brief solo career he returned to perform with The Byrds. He’s perhaps one of the underrated singer-songwriters of his generation and his influence on rock music is unparalleled.
In his later years, he began having troubles with his health – mostly due to his substance abuse. He was sadly diagnosed with throat cancer in early 1991 and then died in May of that year due to a bleeding ulcer. This was a result of his alcoholism. He was 46 years old and had died in Sherman Oaks, California. He’s buried in his native town of Tipton, Missouri.
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Mike Clarke was born on June 3rd, 1946, in New York City. When he was 19, he was performing as a jazz drummer for a variety of bands and was touring around the country. He soon came across David Crosby while he was hitchhiking around California.
Upon meeting David Crosby, he eventually met Roger McGuinn, Chris Hillman, and Gene Clark with whom he founded The Byrds. He played the drums for the band until 1968. In 1985, he got into legal trouble with the remaining members of the band as he began performing under the band’s name – despite having left it almost 20 years earlier!
While he wasn’t involved much in songwriting, he’s credited with helping compose some of the band’s most popular songs. These included “Captain Soul” and “Artificial Energy” among a few others. He had a keen interest in country and western music and also performed with The Flying Burrito Brothers. He also performed with Firefall and Jerry Jeff Walker. But his work with The Byrds is what he’s best known for.
During his later years, Mike Clarke and his wife Lee began writing songs together. Mike also took up oil painting as a hobby. He lived in Treasure Island, Florida during the final years of his life. Mike Clarke sadly passed away in 1993 at the age of 47 due to liver failure – a result of his heavy drinking.
Kevin Kelley was born on March 25, 1943, in Los Angeles, California. He began studying the drums as a teenager and played in his school’s band. He served in the US Marine Corps for 3 years and lived for a year in Japan.
When he returned to the United States, he decided to pursue a career as a drummer. Throughout the 1960s, he played the drums with a variety of different bands – focusing mainly on folk rock. He was the drummer of the band The Rising Sons.
While they released music and were signed to a record label, they didn’t manage to succeed as a band and soon broke up. Much of their music remained unreleased until the 1990s.
In the late 1960s, while working at a men’s clothing store he was contacted by his cousin Chris Hillman who was playing bass for the band The Byrds. He played drums for the band but he sadly didn’t last long with them. Kevin Kelley was soon replaced by Clarence White and then went on his own way.
He later joined the band Fever Tree for their album For Sale. Kevin later played the drums for the band Gas Food and Lodging. For the later years of his career, he served as a session drummer for a variety of artists including Phil Ochs, John Fahey, and Michael Cohen.
He died of natural causes on April 6, 2002, at the age of 59.
Ingram Cecil Connor III, known professionally as Gram Parsons, was born on November 5, 1946, in Winter Haven, Florida.
He became interested in folk-rock music during his teens and began playing the guitar, piano, and also began singing and writing songs. By 1968, he met the The Byrds members and soon became a member himself.
He first served as a jazz pianist for the band and then soon switched over to playing the guitar and singing for them. While he contributed to a lot of the band’s songs, he was never considered to be a full member of The Byrds. As a result, his stint with The Byrds was short-lived and he soon had to find work elsewhere.
He and Chris Hillman formed The Flying Burrito Brothers in 1969 and he performed with the band for about a year. Following his leaving The Flying Burrito Brothers, he decided to pursue a solo career.
His death came too quickly and was shocking for the music industry. He was wandering throughout Joshua Tree National Park – a place he was fascinated with. Sadly, during this time he also experimented with drugs.
He was found dead in his room at the inn at Joshura Tree National Park. Gram had overdosed on morphine. He had spent his last few days consuming an excess of barbiturates and alcohol.
One of the most shocking incidents following his death was that his body was stolen and partially cremated until the perpetrators, Phil Kaufman and Michael Martin – who were his manager and assistant, respectively.
Gram Parsons was only 26 years old when he died.
Clarence Joseph LeBlanc on June 7, 1944, in Lewiston, Maine. He remains best known for his performances as a guitarist and singer for the bluegrass band the Kentucky Colonels as well as The Byrds. He was also a notable session musician.
In July 1968, The Byrds’ singer and guitarist Gram Parsons left the band. Clarence stepped in to replace him. He became a full member of The Byrds and was instrumental in helping them transition to appealing to country music fans.
He later suggested that Kevin Kelley should be replaced with his friend Gene Parsons. Clarence and Gene would later become known as the inventors of the B-Bender accessory. This accessory helps the guitar player bend the B-string to imitate the tone of a pedal steel guitar.
Clarence would perform live gigs with The Byrds and was involved in the production of some of their most successful albums. He sadly died on July 15, 1973, after being hit by a drunk driver while he was loading materials into his car. He was only 29 years old.
Clyde “Skip” Battin was born on February 18, 1934, in Gallipolis, Ohio. He’s remembered as a versatile and prolific singer-songwriter, basisst, and live performer for a variety of bands including The Flying Burrito Brothers, The New Riders of the Purple Sage, and, of course, The Byrds.
In the early 1960s, he worked as an actor and landed a few bit parts in independent films and TV shows. By the mid-1960s, he formed a folk-rock group Evergreen Blueshoes and released an album with them. Sadly, the album didn’t succeed, and the band soon broke up.
He served as the bassist for The Byrds from 1970 to 1973 and this was his most successful period as a musician. He recorded 3 albums with the band and toured with them as well. Skip continued to perform as a session musician and also performed with other bands until the early 1990s.
He was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease in the 90s and had to give up his music career as a result. Skip Battin died in 2003 due to complications from the disease. He was 69 years old.
Are you a fan of The Byrds? What are your favorite songs of theirs?
Here’s what we’d like to know from you:
Do you think that The Byrds are still popular today? Or do we need to introduce their music to a new generation of music fans?
We look forward to reading your comments!
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