Psychedelic Rock Icon Roky Erickson Dead at 71
Roky Erickson, frontman with ‘60s psychedelic rock pioneers the 13th Floor Elevators, has died at the age of 71, his family confirmed. No cause was given.
Underappreciated during the four-year period in which they released three studio albums and one live LP, the Texan band’s reputation had been re-evaluated afterwards. They’re probably best known for 1966 singles “You’re Gonna Miss Me” and “Reverberation (Doubt),” while Erickson’s song “If You Have Ghosts” was notably covered by Swedish band Ghost in 2013.
“My brother Roky passed away peaceably today,” Mikel Erickson announced via Facebook. “Please allow us time. Music and laughter forever.” Another brother, Sumner, told Austin 360: “The world lost a huge light and an incredible soul. It wasn’t the easiest life, but he’s free of all that now.”
The 13th Floor Elevators – ‘You’re Gonna Miss Me’
Erickson was arrested in 1969 for possession of marijuana and spent three years in a prison hospital for the criminally insane, where he was exposed to electric shock therapy from which friends say he never recovered. Afterwards he struggled with his mental health for years, and at one point Sumner Erickson was assigned to be his legal guardian. He continued to make music as his health allowed, releasing 18 studio albums with his bands the Aliens and the Ressurectionists, and as a solo artist. His work was celebrated on 1990 tribute album Where the Pyramid Meets the Eye, which featured ZZ Top, Primal Scream, Julian Cope, R.E.M. and others.
“Roky came to mean many things to many admirers and will continue to resonate with a legacy of remarkable style, talent, and poetic and artistic tales from beyond,” ZZ Top’s Billy Gibbons said in a statement. “As a long-standing friend and follower of Roky’s amazing performing abilities and as a guitarist and singer, I can only relate the far-reaching impact he and his mates in the 13th Floor Elevators brought to the fore with their eerily magnetic psychedelic sounds. It’s almost unfathomable to contemplate a world without Roky Erickson. He created his own musical galaxy and early on was a true inspiration. Even now, Roky is a source of creative energy of the first order. It’s really a circumstance where he continues to provide the requisite ‘Reverberation.’ Something he predicted when he sang ‘You’re Gonna Miss Me’ — we certainly do now that he’s at one with the universe.”
Speaking ahead of an Elevators reunion in 2015, bandmate Tommy Hall said the band’s contribution to psychedelic culture had been significant. “The whole intents and purposes of our band was to take acid into thought,” he said. “This was an intellectual vehicle, and we had to use it. This was our chance for man to advance himself, because we could perceive, and it increased our perception.” He added that their music “really authenticated weed… it meant that there was a use for it. It wasn’t just getting high; this was all an evolutionary process we were going through.”
Roky Erickson – ‘If You Have Ghosts’