Friday, January 6, 2006

Barry Cowsill is Dead

Barry Cowsill, member of the family band known as The Cowsills, has been missing since approximately the time that Hurricane Katrina took place. His body has been found recently, on December 27, on the Charles Street Wharf in New Orleans. He was 51 years old. There is still no detemination as to what caused his death.

For those of you who are pondering who The Cowsills were, they were a band composed of five brothers (Bill, Bob, Barry, John, and Paul), their sister (Susan), and their mother (Barbara), that was quite popular in the late Sixties. The group came about after their father gave Bill and Bob guitars. They soon started emulating the Everly Brothers. Bill and Bob later recruited Barry and John to play bass and drums respectively. Eventually they released a single on the Joda label, which went nowhere. After an appearance on The Today Show, however, The Cowsills were signed to Mercury. Three more singles were released on that label, all of which flopped. Mercury dropped The Cowsills. Fortunately, Arte Kornfeld, a producer at Mercury, had faith in the group. He arranged a recording session at which they performed a song written by himself and Steve Duboff--"The Rain, the Park, and Other Things." On the song, mother Barbara was persuaded to add some vocals. On the strength of that single, The Cowsills earned a contract with MGM. MGM released "The Rain, the Park, and Other Things" in 1967. Eventually it would go to number two on the Billboard charts and it would sell over two million copies. Siblings Paul and Susan joined the group in the wake of that song's success. The Cowsills would also see further hit singles--"We Can Fly," "Indian Lake," and a cover version of the theme from the musical Hair. At one point Columbia Pictures considered a series based on the group's life. Later, that same company would produce The Partridge Family, largely believed to have been inspired by The Cowsills' lives. Sadly, by the early Seventies, The Cowsill's career was in decline. The single "On My Side," from the album of the same name, only reached #108 on the Billboard charts in 1971.

Barry Cowsill was born on September 14, 1954. Following the success of The Cowsills, he often found himself battling with substance abuse. He still performed music and in recent years issued the album As Is in 1998 and a two disc CD ("Fishin' Worm Blues" and "Drunkards Nappy") in 2001. He is survived by his brothers Bob, Bill, Richard, Paul, and John, his sister Susan, three children, and two grandchildren.

I must say that I am saddened to learn of Barry Cowsill's passing. As a child I enjoyed many of The Cowsills' songs. In fact, "The Rain, the Park, and Other Things" is still among my favourite songs. I always enjoyed "Indian Lake" and I actually prefer their version of "Hair" to the original. I must then say that I am saddened to learn of Barry Cowsill's passing.

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