It now seems a lifetime away, but when John “Marmaduke” Dawson launched the New Riders of the Purple Sage in 1969, he started something special.
The band was the launching pad for The Grateful Dead, counting Jerry Garcia, Phil Lesh and Mickey Hart in its lineup during the New Riders’ early years. Former members of Jefferson Airplane and Big Brother and the Holding Company also played under the band’s banner.
So it is that Dawson’s death from stomach cancer this week is cause of mourning. After all, rock music is in many ways an ongoing tribute to those that came before.
(photo courtesy of New Riders of the Purple Sage)
Dawson died on Tuesday at the age of 64. He was a pioneer of the West Coast wave of music in the late 1960s and early 1970s, and remained an influential musician with New Riders.
The original band broke up in 1982, but Dawson kept performing under the name with a new lineup. He later retired to Mexico and was unable to join more recent reunions due to ill health.
This week New Riders posted the following message on the band’s website:
JOHN “MARMADUKE” DAWSON (1945-2009)
John passed away peacefully on July 21, 2009 at the age of 64 in Mexico, where he had retired several years ago. It is with great sadness that we relay this news, and extend our deepest condolences to his family and all his many fans out there.
His songs inspired us in so many ways. His energy, passion and commitment to the New Riders brought us all so much joy over the years. We can all be thankful that his music and legacy will live on forever.
So, rest in peace Marmaduke.
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