May 4, 2017

Death in the Most Rock-and-Roll Way Ever

The Music Legend Who Died Onstage

When musician Bruce Hampton collapsed on stage Monday night, his band thought it was a theatrical end to a celebratory night and kept on playing for several minutes.....The guitarist/singer/bandleader was performing at Atlanta’s Fox Theater for his 70th birthday surrounded by over 30 of his acolytes, including members of the Allman Brothers Band, Phish, REM, Blues Traveler and Widespread Panic. They were all there because they consider Mr. Hampton a primary musical inspiration.

 Guitarist Bruce Hampton

The sold-out show concluded with the musicians on stage smiling broadly as Mr. Hampton led them through Bobby Bland’s “Turn On Your Lovelight.” He pointed to 14-year-old Brandon Niederauer to solo on guitar and then went to one knee, collapsed and died. It was several minutes before the band stopped and EMTs rushed on stage to try and revive Mr. Hampton.

He died shortly thereafter at a nearby hospital.

“It wasn’t the first time any of us had seen him on the floor like James Brown,” says Jeff Sipe, a drummer and longtime collaborator who was conducting the musicians. “It took a minute for concern to grow.”

Fans and musicians who were present described a raucous crowd of 5,000 chanting “Bruuuuuce” throughout the night. Mr. Hampton performed a 20-minute set at the start and then joined in occasionally, mostly watching from a chair on stage. Performers ranged across generations, from the 14-year-old Niederauer, a star of Broadway’s “School of Rock,” to 88-year-old pianist Johnny Knapp, who recorded with Billie Holiday.

“Everybody was devastated,” says Mr. Haynes, himself a jam band kingpin as frontman for Gov’t Mule and formerly the Allman Brothers Band. “It was one of the most epic nights of music anyone on stage or in the audience has ever experienced. To go from honoring Bruce in this amazing way to mourning him in the blink of an eye was emotionally jarring.”....

“There was an incredible feeling in the building that it was a family reunion as much as concert,” says Widespread Panic’s John Bell. “Everyone rose to the occasion, including Bruce, who was playing and singing as well as I’ve ever seen him. He was in command until the last second and it was glorious to see. I believe he went from fully present in this world to fully present in another world, with very little in the middle.”
Posted by Jill Fallon at May 4, 2017 10:49 AM | Permalink