Psychedelic rock legend Roky Erickson has died in Austin, he was 71.
The 13th Floor Elevators frontman’s death was confirmed by his brother Mikel to producer Bill Bentley, who was responsible for producing the 1990 Erickson tribute album ‘Where the Pyramid Meets the Eye’. No cause of death has yet been revealed.
“Roky lived in so many worlds, you couldn’t keep up with him,” Bentley told Variety. “He lived so much, and not always on this planet.”
Born Roger Kynard Erickson in Austin, he formed his first band, the Spades, after dropping out of high school in 1965. Later in the same year he formed the 13th Floor Elevators.
Releasing their debut album, ‘The Psychedelic Sounds Of The 13th Floor Elevators’, in 1966, the band’s fiery single ‘You’re Gonna Miss Me’ became a regional hit, and forever remains one of the most iconic tracks to come out of the ’60s garage-rock movement. The 13th Floor Elevators went on to release three more albums, their final one being ‘Bull of the Woods’ in 1969.
Forming a series of other bands throughout the ’70s and releasing a few records, some of which were produced by former Creedence Clearwater Revival bassist Stu Cook, Erickson went on to find cult fame in 1990, with the release of ‘When the Pyramid Meets the Eye’, an all-star Erickson tribute album that featured performances by the likes of R.E.M., ZZ Top, Doug Sahm and others.
In 1995, Erickson released the acclaimed album ‘All That May Do My Rhyme’, and he published Openers II, a collection of his lyrics. The 2005 documentary You’re Gonna Miss Me introduced more people to his music and shone a spotlight on his personal struggles.
Plagued by drama and health issues throughout his career, in 1968 Erickson was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia. He was then institutionalised and forced to undergo electroconvulsive therapy. Shortly thereafter, he was arrested with marijuana. He pleaded guilty and was hospitalised again. Remaining in state custody for several years, this is effectively what caused the 13th Floor Elevators break up. Then in 1989, he was arrested for stealing his neighbours’ post, though the charges would eventually be dropped.
In his later years, he toured regularly, backed by such acts as the Black Angels, and could be found playing shows around North America and Europe, including at festivals like Coachella.
He collaborated with Mogwai on their 2008 track ‘Devil Rides’. Then in 2010, he released the album ‘True Love Cast Out All Evil’, which featured Okkervil River as his backing band. And in 2015, Erickson reunited with the 13th Floor Elevators and headlined Levitation, the Austin psych-rock festival that had been named after one of their songs.
Tributes have begun to pour in for Erickson.
“Devastated to hear of Roky Erickson’s passing,” said Mark Lanegan. “One of the reasons I began singing. A huge inspiration and giant in the history of rock. I used to call him every day in the 80’s, he would actually pick up once every couple months and talk horror films with me. Such a loss. RIP.”
Devastated to hear of Roky Erickson's passing. One of the reasons I began singing. A huge inspiration and giant in the history of rock. I used to call him every day in the 80's, he would actually pick up once every couple months and talk horror films with me. Such a loss. RIP pic.twitter.com/6HE4HHsZnS
— mark lanegan (@marklanegan) May 31, 2019
Mogwai’s Stuart Braithwaite wrote: “The worst news. Rest in peace Roky X,” while Flea of the Red Hot Chili Peppers added: “Ahh Roky Erickson. So many beautiful songs. Love forever. R.I.P.”
The worst news. Rest in peace Roky X https://t.co/RAyQ7WHkVB
— stuart braithwaite (@plasmatron) May 31, 2019
Ahh Roky Erickson. So many beautiful songs. Love forever. R.I.P.
— Flea (@flea333) June 1, 2019
See more tributes to Roky Erickson below:
We’re incredibly sad to hear that ROKY ERICKSON passed away. The man melted our minds on countless occasions as the original godfather of psychedelia, and still someone the world hasn’t quite caught up to. Roky, thank you for making life a lot more interesting, strange & honest. pic.twitter.com/i2p7RJjO73
— Light In The Attic (@lightintheattic) May 31, 2019
— Jason P. Woodbury (@jasonpwoodbury) May 31, 2019
RIP Roky Erickson, who defined early psychedelia and briefly found infinity though the raw power of distortion and enough LSD to melt 100 minds. Who turned reverb into a wall of walloping gnarled beauty and sang with a lost wail that will keep echoing — to remain forever missed. pic.twitter.com/hSLFN0rfNC
— Otto Von Biz Markie (@Passionweiss) May 31, 2019
Rest In Peace Roky Erickson. The co-founder of the 13th Floor Elevators and the king of Texas psych rock has died at age 71. He was a visionary who made mind-blowing music for 5 decades and we’re gonna miss him. 🎸 pic.twitter.com/LlQOKHH0NY
— Amoeba Music (@amoebamusic) May 31, 2019
fuck. rip roky erickson https://t.co/BWAgIvvhVC
— meredith graves (@gravesmeredith) May 31, 2019
So many musicians I’ve met wouldn’t be musicians without Roky Erickson pic.twitter.com/RQQprxVtxM
— Matt Wilkinson (@w1lko) May 31, 2019
R.I.P. Roky Erickson, July 15, 1947 — May 31, 2019. Here he is singing "You're Gonna Miss Me" with the 13th Floor Elevators in 1966. pic.twitter.com/eITNssxvl2
— Dust-to-Digital (@dusttodigital) June 1, 2019
— aquarium drunkard (@aquadrunkard) May 31, 2019
I got to see Roky Erickson play once, when he was touring with The Black Angels as his backing band, playing some of the old 13th Floor stuff. Maybe 2008 or so. I don't remember much about how the songs sounded, just how visibly overjoyed he was to have the guitar in his hands.
— Hanif Abdurraqib (@NifMuhammad) May 31, 2019
We were so lucky to have Roky Erickson perform at SXSW throughout the years. Our hearts go out to his loved ones, friends, fans and the Texas music community. Erickson’s enduring legacy is immeasurable and will live on. pic.twitter.com/59IoN7GxdA
— SXSW (@sxsw) June 1, 2019
All the cultural notoriety that went to Jim Morrison should have belonged to Roky Erickson
— Jeremy D. Larson (@jeremydlarson) May 31, 2019
Psychedelic pioneer Roky Erickson has gone to the other side.
The 13th Floor Elevator used to call me Fidel Castro because he thought I looked like him. (These pics 1986/2015.)
— Jody Denberg (@JodyDenberg) May 31, 2019
Roky Erickson was a visionary. "You're Gonna Miss Me" is one of the five greatest rock songs ever. "Splash 1" is one of the most beautiful. I like the 13th Floor Elevators version of "Baby Blue" more than Dylan's original (sorry). "I Walked With a Zombie" is untouchable.
— Jason Diamond (@imjasondiamond) May 31, 2019
Roky Erickson has died. He was a true original. pic.twitter.com/nVT22uiFUY
— Toots Barger and the Maytals (@brianlindenmuth) May 31, 2019
Roky Erickson invented psychedelic rock. 13th Floor Elevators were the best to ever do it and that is never going to change.
— Tyler Mahan Coe (@TylerMahanCoe) May 31, 2019