The 13th Floor Elevators singer and psychedelic pioneer was a massively influential figure in rock music
Roky Erickson—pioneering psychedelic musician and frontman of the 1960s rock group 13th Floor Elevators—has died. He was 71 years old. A cause of death has not yet been confirmed. “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 to Pitchfork. “Erickson never wavered from that path, and while he faced incredible challenges at different points in his life, his courage always led him on to new musical adventures, one he continued without compromise his entire life. The family asks for privacy while they deal with the loss of a son, brother, husband and father.” Read the full statement below.
Roky Erickson (born Roger Kynard Erickson) formed 13th Floor Elevators along with Tommy Hall, Stacy Sutherland, Benny Thurman, and John Ike Walton in 1965 in Central Texas. Credited as one of the first psychedelic groups, 13th Floor Elevators released one of their most enduring singles “You’re Gonna Miss Me” in 1966. The song would later climb to No. 55 on the Billboard charts after the Houston record label International Artists re-released it. By the end of ’66, International Artists would release the band’s debut album, Psychedelic Sounds of the 13th Floor Elevators. The group disbanded in 1969, after Erickson was arrested for marijuana possession. He subsequently underwent treatment for mental illness.
Erickson released his eponymous debut as Roky Erickson and the Aliens in 1980. He recorded a steady stream of releases under that mantle up until 2004, while simultaneously releasing multiple LPs under his name alone. In 2010, Erickson released a joint album with Okkervil River called True Love Cast Out All Evil. A documentary about his life, You’re Gonna Miss Me, was released in 2005.
Erickson is cited as a highly influential figure among many contemporary rock artists, and in 2008, Erickson performed a string of comeback concerts featuring support from fellow Texan psych band the Black Angels. In 2015, 13th Floor Elevators reunited at Austin’s Levitation festival. It was the first time members of the original lineup had played together since 1967.
In an official statement Erickson’s representatives said:
Roky Erickson, an heroic icon of modern rock & roll and one of the best friends the music ever had, died in Austin, Texas today. Born there on July 15, 1947, Erickson had a visionary zeal rarely seen in 1965 when he co-founded the 13th Floor Elevators. The band’s original songs, many written with lyricist Tommy Hall, coupled with Erickson’s super-charged vocals and guitar sparked the psychedelic music revolution in the mid-1960s, and led to a new role of what rock could be. Erickson never wavered from that path, and while he faced incredible challenges at different points in his life, his courage always led him on to new musical adventures, one he continued without compromise his entire life. The family asks for privacy while they deal with the loss of a son, brother, husband and father.
In an additional statement, 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. As a long standing friend and follower of Roky’s amazing performing abilities and aa a guitarist and singer, I can only relate the far reaching impact he and his mates in The Thirteenth Floor Elevators brought to the fore with their eerily magnetic psychedelic sounds. It’s almost unfathomable to contemplate a world without Roky Erickson. He created his own musical galaxy and early on was an true inspiration. Even now, Roky is a source of creative energy of the first order. It’s really a circumstance where he continues to provide the requisite “Reverberation.” Something he predicted when he sang “You’re Gonna Miss Me”…We certainly do know now that he’s at one with the universe.