… he died on February 8, 1990 when he was 55 years-old.
Born in Grand Rapids, MI, Del Shannon was one of the most original rockers of the early '60s. Although considered a teen idol, he favored brooding themes of abandonment, loss, and rejection. Del wrote most of his own songs, and was able to keep going strong for a year or two into the British Invasion. However, his commercial appeal for the most part, withered after the mid-'60s.
Born Charles Weedon Westover, Shannon happened upon a gripping series of minor chords while playing with his band in Battle Creek, MI. The chords would form the basis for his 1961 debut single, "Runaway," one of the greatest hits of the early '60s, with its unforgettable riffs, Shannon's amazing vocal range – including a trademark falsetto - and an unusual organ solo in the middle of the tune. It made number one, and the similar follow-up, "Hats Off to Larry," also made the Top Ten.
Shannon had intermittent minor hits over the next couple of years ("Little Town Flirt," and “Searching” were the biggest. Ironically, in light of the British Invasion on the shores of the U.S., Del continued to be very popular in England. On one of his European tours in 1963, he played some shows with the Beatles, who had just scored their first big British hits.
(Continued below video and Amazon portal ...)
(Press album cover for direct link to Amazon):
Shannon, impressed by what he heard, would become the first American artist to cover a Beatles song when he recorded "From Me to You" as a single in 1963 – though it was only a minor hit for Del.
Shannon's songs shared some similarities with the British Invasion, and in 1965 Peter & Gordon would cover a Shannon composition, "I Go to Pieces," for a Top Ten hit.
Del himself, returned to the Top Ten with a late-1964 single, "Keep Searchin'." But after his single "Stranger in Town" released in 1965, he did not enter the Top 40 again for nearly 20 years. By the late '60s, Shannon was devoting much of his time to producing other artists.
Shannon was a perennially popular artist on the oldies circuit. An early '80s album produced by Tom Petty got him into the Top 40 again with a cover of "Sea of Love."
He was working on another comeback album with Jeff Lynne, and sometimes rumored as a replacement for Roy Orbison in the Traveling Wilburys, when he unexpectedly killed himself on February 8, 1990, while on anti-depressant drugs.