Sky Saxon dies; founder of 1960s band the Seeds
The lead singer, who was known for his Mick Jagger-influenced vocals,
was believed to be in his 60s. The Seeds' garage-band sound was
popular with the flower-power generation.
Times Staff And Wire Reports
June 27, 2009
Sky Saxon, lead singer and founder of the 1960s band the Seeds, which
had a Top 40 hit in 1967 with "Pushin' Too Hard," died Thursday at a
hospital in Austin, Texas, after a brief illness. He was believed to
be in his 60s.
Publicist Jen Marchand said in a news release that Saxon died of
heart and kidney failure after an "undiagnosed infection of his
The Seeds sprang up in Los Angeles in 1965, and their garage-band
sound became a favorite of the flower-power generation. Another hit
single of 1967 was "Can't Seem to Make You Mine," and their song "Mr.
Farmer" was included in the soundtrack for the movie "Almost Famous."
Saxon's Mick Jagger-influenced vocals dominated the sound of the band
that was rounded out by guitarist Jan Savage, keyboardist Daryl
Hooper and drummer Rick Andridge.
A 1967 Times review of their album "A Web of Sound" noted that the
Seeds had "been adopted by the hippies -- the flower children --
because of their open-ended songs which generally skirt neatly
plotted thoughts and didacticism."
The album included a 14-minute song called "Up in Her Room" that
featured a lengthy improvisational jam session.
The Seeds disbanded in 1969, and the eccentric Saxon recorded with
other musicians over the years. He joined a commune called the Source
Family and moved to Hawaii for a time, but in the last several years
he performed with retro psychedelia shows at the Knitting Factory and
other Southern California venues.
Various sources cite conflicting birth dates for Saxon, who was born
Richard Marsh and grew up in Utah. He moved to Los Angeles and
recorded first as Little Richie Marsh, then fronted the bands Soul
Rockers and Electra Fires.
Saxon had recently moved to Austin, where he played with his new
band, Shapes Have Fangs. He had been planning to perform this summer
with the California '66 Revue, a tour featuring a lineup of
California bands from the 1960s.
Saxon's survivors include his wife, Sabrina. His ashes will be
scattered in Hawaii, according to a news release.
Sky Saxon, frontman for short-lived Seeds
By Bruce Weber
New York Times
Sky Saxon, the mop-haired bass player and frontman for the
psychedelic protopunk band the Seeds, whose 1965 song "Pushin' Too
Hard" put a Los Angeles garage-band spin on the bad-boy rocker image
personified by the Rolling Stones, died Thursday in Austin, Texas. He
was thought to be 71.
His death was announced by his wife, Sabrina Smith Saxon, on her
Facebook page. In a telephone interview Thursday, she said the cause
was heart failure.
Saxon, who had remained an active musician, played his final gig at
an Austin club with a local backup band on Saturday night and was
taken to the hospital Monday, she said.
The Seeds, formed in 1965, were a short-lived but cultishly memorable
band that melded primitive rock rhythms with the free-love message of
the flower power generation. Both their look (mod fashions and
bowl-cut hairdos) and their sound borrowed from British rockers.
Critics gave them credit for helping to popularize psychedelic rock
and for prefiguring the punk movement.
Saxon composed songs and played electric bass, but it was perhaps his
sullen, stylized lead vocals that best characterized the band. Never
as threatening as the Stones, they were, instead, rather sweetly
dangerous, appearing on white-bread television music and dance shows
like "American Bandstand" wearing tailored bell-bottoms and velour
shirts or shiny Nehru jackets. Saxon voiced the vaguely menacing
lyrics to songs like "Can't Seem to Make You Mine," "Painted Doll" or
"Pushin' Too Hard," a pulsing, anthemic warning to any girlfriend
with ambitions to rein in her man.
The Seeds flamed out in the early 1970s, but they lingered in the
annals of rock history as representatives of their time and place.
Their songs have appeared in movies including "Cop Land" (1997) with
Sylvester Stallone and "Secretary" (2002), the story of a
dominant-submissive relationship, which starred James Spader and
Sky Sunlight Saxon was the name he used in later years, the middle
name given to him in the 1970s as a member of the Source Family, a
spiritual cult whose leader known as Father Yod or Ya Ho Wha
started what has been described as the quintessential hippie commune;
Saxon was also known within it as Arelich.
He was born Richard Elvern Marsh in Salt Lake City in 1937, according
to several online sources. Sabrina Saxon said her husband's birthday
was Aug. 20 but would not confirm the year because he believed age
was irrelevant, she said. He moved to Los Angeles to start a music
career after high school.
Saxon's first marriage ended in divorce. In addition to his wife,
whom he married in 2007, his survivors include an unspecified number
of siblings, several children and grandchildren.
After the Seeds dissolved, Saxon performed and recorded with numerous
bands, including some he called the Seeds, and he occasionally played
with the Source Family's own band, known as Ya Ho Wha 13. In 1998, he
arranged for a 13-CD boxed set of its music to be produced in Japan.
"Sky has passed over and Ya Ho Wha is waiting for him at the gate,"
his wife wrote on Facebook. "He will soon be home with his Father."
Founder of Garage Legends the Seeds Passes Away in Austin
By William Michael Smith
Thursday, Jun. 25 2009
No one is pushing too hard on Sky Saxon anymore. The leader of '60s
garage band the Seeds died overnight in Austin, where he recently
relocated. He had been in critical condition in the ICU at St.
David's South Austin Hospital, Saxon's publicist Jennifer Marchand said.
Saxon, born Richard Marsh, is credited with being a founder of the
Flower Power movement in rock. "Pushin' Too Hard" was his only song
to ever make the Top 40, but Saxon leaves behind a large body of work
and an important legacy to American pop music. He's been described as
one of the progenitors of garage rock and psychedelia, and like Roky
Erickson and the Thirteenth Floor Elevators, is frequently cited as
an important proto-punk influence.
Despite largely disappearing from the pop radar screen by the end of
the '60s, Saxon stayed involved in music and art the rest of his
life. Perhaps the most ironic thing about his passing is that he had
booked a long tour for this fall with fellow Nuggets A-listers
Electric Prunes and Love.
Seeds frontman Sky Saxon dies
Published June 25, 2009
By Tjames Madison / LiveDaily Contributor
Sky "Sunlight" Saxon, frontman and bass guitarist of '60s psychedelic
garage-rockers The Seeds [ tickets ], has died in an Austin, TX, hospital.
Saxon had been hospitalized in critical condition at St. David's
Hospital since Monday (6/22) with what his doctors believed to be an
infection of the internal organs. A cause of death has not yet been
confirmed for the singer, whose actual age was unknown, and who
listed his birth date variously as 1937, 1945 and 1946.
Saxon's wife Sabrina posted news of the performer's death on Facebook
Thursday morning. "Sky has passed over and YaHoWha is waiting for him
at the gate. He will soon be home with his Father. I'm so sorry I
couldn't keep him here with us. More later. I'm sorry."
The singer, born Richard Marsh in Salt Lake City, UT, began his
career in the early '60s as a doo-wop performer, billing himself as
Little Richie Marsh. After becoming Sky Saxon and forming a series of
unsuccessful bands, he hit on the right formula with The Seeds in
1965. The band produced several mid-decade hits, including "(You're)
Pushin' Too Hard," which broke into the Top 40 in 1967.
Saxon struggled through a number of personnel changes with The Seeds
while the band's commercial potential deflated; the group released
its last major-label album in 1970 to little notice.
Afterwards, Saxon joined the Yahowha religious sect in Los Angeles
and, along with other members of the group, to released several
albums in the early '70s as the Yahowha 13. It was during this period
that Saxon adopted "Sunlight" as his spiritual name.
Saxon continued to tour and record music over the years, working with
newer bands like Redd Kross and Chesterfield Kings in the '80s before
reforming The Seeds in 1989 to headline the Summer of Love Tour,
which also featured Big Brother and the Holding Company, Arthur Lee,
and Love and the Strawberry Alarm Clock, among other acts.
A second revival in 2003 included original guitarist Jon Savage, who
departed midway through the band's 2003 European tour due to failing
health. The group had continued on ever since, with Saxon remaining
as the sole original member.
The performer, who was scheduled to take part in the '60s-nostalgia
California '66 Revue tour this summer along with The Electric Prunes
and Love, had taken to the stage as recently as Saturday (6/20) at
Austin nightclub Antone's with recent collaborators Shapes Have Fangs.