Pioneering psychedelic rock musician and frontman of the 1960s rock group 13th Floor Elevators Roky Erickson has passed away of unknown causes at the age of 71.
“Roky Erickson, an heroic icon of modern rock & roll and one of the best friends the music ever had, died in Austin, Texas today,” his representatives wrote in a statement yesterday.
In 1965, Roky Erickson formed 13th Floor Elevators along with Tommy Hall, Stacy Sutherland, Benny Thurman, and John Ike Walton. They released their debut LP The Psychedelic Sounds of the 13th Floor Elevators in 1966. Although the group disbanded in 1969, 13th Floor Elevators is credited as one of the first and most influential psychadelic rock groups.
While still in the group, Erickson was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia. Shortly after the group disbanded, Erickson was arrested for marijuana possession and to avoid a 10 year sentence, he pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity and was sent to a mental hospital where he was subjected to torturous electroconvulsive therapy and Thorazine treatments. He wasn’t released until 1972.
Erickson went on to release music as Roky Erickson and the Aliens and under his own name alone from 1980 up until 2004. A documentary about his life, You’re Gonna Miss Me, was released in 2005.
Despite battling his mental illness and the impacts of his imprisonment, he played a string of concerts around America in the 2000s for the first time in his career. In 2010, Erickson released his final album True Love Cast Out All Evil with indie rock group Okkervil River. In 2015, 13th Floor Elevators reunited at Austin’s Levitation festival for the first time since 1967.
Erickson is highly regarded among many contemporary rock artists, including ZZ Top and R.E.M., who appeared on the 1990 tribute album to Erickson.
Billy F. Gibbons of ZZ Top wrote, "Roky Erickson has moved on. 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." "It’s almost unfathomable to contemplate a world without Roky Erickson. He created his own musical galaxy and early on was an true inspiration."
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Article image: Roky Erickson performing in Seattle, Washington in 2007. (Joe Mabel [CC BY-SA 3.0] via Wikimedia Commons.)