- Pioneering California rock musician Jan Berry, who rode the wave of the surf music trend in the 1960s as one half of the popular duo Jan & Dean, has died, his wife said on Saturday.
Berry, who would have turned 63 on April 3, had suffered from poor health ever since a 1966 auto wreck that left him paralyzed for a year, essentially ending the duo’s career.
He appeared to suffer a seizure at his home in the Los Angeles suburb of Brentwood on Friday afternoon, Gertie Berry told Reuters, and was later pronounced dead at the nearby UCLA Medical Center. She did not know the official cause of death.
Jan & Dean, which Berry co-founded with former schoolmate Dean Torrence while both were college students, enjoyed seven top-10 hits, including the 1963 chart-topper “Surf City,” which was co-written by their friend, Beach Boy Brian Wilson.
The Beach Boys and Jan & Dean often performed on each others’ tracks, without the knowledge of their rival record labels. Other Jan & Dean hits included “Drag City,” “Dead Man’s Curve” and “The Little Old Lady From Pasadena,” all from 1964.
Berry, a pre-med student with a genius-level IQ, was the creative brains behind Jan & Dean. He assumed control of production and arrangements at a time when such chores were left to seasoned pros. He was a key influence on Brian Wilson, who would soon take songwriting and production to a whole new level, according to Berry’s official biographer, Mark Moore.
….Tragedy struck for Berry in April 1966 when his speeding Corvette hit a parked truck on a Los Angeles thoroughfare. He was completely paralyzed for over a year, and suffered extensive brain damage.
After years of extensive therapy, he was able to walk again and regain some of his cognitive functions. Jan & Dean reunited unsuccessfully in 1973, but saw renewed interest in their career following a 1978 TV movie called “Dead Man’s Curve.”
Berry recorded his debut solo album, “Second Wave,” in 1997, and occasionally performed with Torrence. Their last show together, with Berry in a wheelchair, was on March 6 in El Cajon, California, Moore said. [Reuters]
Very sad to see Jan go – he struggled for years and years to come back from the accident, and while he never really came back, the fact that he was able to function and make music again was a great triumph.