BILLY COWSILL (1948 - 2006)
Still mourning the loss of one brother, members of the 1960s family
band the Cowsills are now mourning the loss of another. Billy Cowsill,
the eldest member of the group and lead singer on its harmonizing
hits such as "Hair" and "The Rain, The Park And Other
Things", died Friday in Canada, where he made his home. He
Cowsill's surviving siblings learned of the death on Saturday in
Newport, Rhode Island, as they gathered in their hometown for a
service and memorial for Barry Cowsill, another brother and band
member, who perished last year in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.
"We don't know what happened, but he hasn't been well for a
while," Bob Cowsill said of his brother. The family's Website
concurred, noting that Billy Cowsill "had a very rough time
of it in the last few years." His ailments included emphysema,
osteoporosis and Cushing's syndrome, a hormonal imbalance. Paul
Cowsill intimated that his older brother's drug and alcohol problems
had caught up with him: "He'd be the first one to tell you
he's paying the fiddler." Indeed, when the Calgary Sun asked
Billy Cowsill in 2002 to explain the breakup of one of his post-Cowsills
bands, the Blue Shadows, he responded frankly: "Three vegetarians
and a junkie - what are the chances? I messed up, plain and simple."
In 2004, with Billy Cowsill's health in decline, members of the
Cowsills, including Barry Cowsill, played a benefit concert for
him in Los Angeles. Peter Tork of the Monkees, a fellow act from
the 1960s pop fraternity, and Susanna Hoffs of the Bangles, the
1980s band that echoed 1960s harmonies, appeared, as did Oscar-winner
Shirley Jones, star of the 1970-74 sitcom, The Partridge Family,
which the Cowsills inspired. While the Partridges bantered, the
Cowsills imploded - the band, consisting of brothers Billy, Bob,
Barry, John and Paul, sister Susan and mother Barbara - was over
even as their TV selves tickled the laugh track. As Bob Cowsill
once observed per an oft-cited quote: "It wasn't just the end
of a business, it was the end of a family."
Billy Cowsill is the third member of the Cowsills to die after
Barry and Barbara. Barbara Cowsill succumbed to emphysema at age
56 in 1985; the skeletal remains of Barry Cowsill, who would have
turned 51 last September, were identified by morgue officials in
New Orleans in January. On a cold Saturday in Rhode Island, Susan
Cowsill scattered Barry's remains into Newport Harbor - or, tried
to, anyway. The Providence Journal said a gust of wind blew the
ashes back at the mourners. Paul Cowsill told the paper he got ashes
in his eye, "and I'm digging it."
In a 2002 interview, Billy Cowsill all but wrote his own epitaph.
"It's been a ride, man," he said of his life and career.
"Thirty-five years of rock 'n' rolling and pop music-ing. It's
been a ride."
(Joal Ryan at http://www.eonline.com)