Here's Where Five Early Rock 'n Rollers Are Buried Around L.A.
During its formative years, rock n' roll was attacked by critics who thought it was the devil's music. We suspect that to not actually be the case, and that those among the genre's pioneers who have passed on are, in fact, jamming with the man upstairs instead.
In any case, several noteworthy rock n' roll figures of the '50s, '60s and '70s have their final resting places around Los Angeles. Here's where to find five of them:
Ritchie Valens (above)
San Fernando Mission Cemetery, Mission Hills
Pacoima's Richard Valenzuela found brief fame after changing his name to Ritchie Valens. He didn't forget his Mexican heritage though, adapting the folk ballad "La Bamba" into a 1958 crossover rock hit. Valenzuela's future looked bright, until he died in the same Iowa plane crash that took the lives of Buddy Holly and The Big Bopper. Valens was 17. His story was later turned into the biopic La Bamba, and his marker at San Fernando Mission Cemetery, shared with his mother, features his image, a guitar and music from his best known songs.
See also: Latino Rockabilly In Los Angeles FTW
Eternal Valley Memorial Park, Newhall
Gene Vincent embodied all that was early rock n' roll. He was the rockabilly archetype: greased hair, wild eyes, menacing smile, often clad in black leather. Vincent and his band, The Bluecaps, were influential far beyond their somewhat limited chart success. Best known for "Be-Bop-A-Lula", Vincent's chronic leg injury was worsened in a British taxi crash that killed fellow Southland rocker Eddie Cochran. Fading from the limelight, despite some credible recordings in different styles, Vincent's drinking worsened and he died in a Newhall hospital after suffering an internal hemorrhage while visiting his father. He was 36.
Forest Lawn Memorial Park, Hollywood Hills
Enigmatic frontman of '60s band Love, Arthur Lee led the group through a diverse range of styles -- folk-rock, pre-punk/garage and psychedelia -- before delivering the classic album Forever Changes. Post-Love, Lee's erratic solo career was beset by personal problems which seemed behind him with a re-emergence and re-appreciation in the early 2000s. Sadly, that revival was cut short when he passed away from leukemia at age 61. His marker, on a steep slope at Forest Lawn, features a fitting line from Love's "You Set The Scene", a song about the duty of searching for one's purpose in life.
Forest Lawn Memorial Park, Hollywood Hills
Known for the definitive version of "I Fought The Law", later covered by The Clash, Fuller was a diverse and underrated rocker who was wrongly pegged a one-hit wonder. The most bizarre and mysterious death on this list, Fuller was found dead in a car reeking of gasoline near his Hollywood apartment on July 18, 1966. He was 23. Despite wild inconsistencies, the LAPD ruled it a suicide, although the initial coroner's report had checked boxes for both accident and suicide with question marks alongside.
Theories ranging from mob involvement to record company thuggery abound, but the coroner ultimately ruled the incident an accident, the result of inhaling gasoline fumes. Whether it was sloppiness or a cover-up, his family, friends and bandmates strongly disagree with that verdict to this day.
Valley Oaks Memorial Park, Westlake Village
When John Lennon declared that concert shy singer-songwriter (and future Lennon L.A. drinking buddy) Harry Nilsson was his favorite "group", Nilsson was still programming computers at a Van Nuys bank. Some may question calling him a rock n' roller (go listen to "Jump Into The Fire"), but Nilsson certainly embraced the lifestyle. He hung out with Lennon and Keith Moon, and not even Alice Cooper could keep up. Nilsson died of a heart attack at 52, shortly after completing vocals for a still unreleased album. A re-issue campaign, book, documentary and a box set have renewed interest in his work. His marker, in Westlake Village, features Nilsson's smiling, cherubic face and the music from his song "Remember."
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