Image via WikipediaWilly DeVille passed away on Friday at the age of 58, less than a month after doctors diagnosed him with pancreatic cancer.
Willy's band Mink DeVille became fixtures on the fledgling mid-70's New York Punk Rock scene by scoring a regular gig at CBGB's in 1975. Their sound epitomized that early NYC-punk vibe that was more heavily influenced by The Velvet Underground than, say, The Stooges or The MC5. In fact, Willy's vocals on early singles like "Let Me Dream if I Want To (Amphetamine Blues)" and "Spanish Stroll" sound so strongly like Lou Reed that it's almost scary.
By 1980, Mink DeVille was a band in name only; the third album released under that name, Le Chat Bleu, saw no original band members but Willy himself contribute. Willy had moved towards a more Sam-Cooke-via-Southside-Johnny sound, and was beginning to cast an eye towards mainstream acceptance.
The closest he got was on his first album under his own name, 1987's Miracle. That album included the song he recorded for the movie The Princess Bride, "Storybook Love," for which he received an Oscar nomination. But, despite hobnobbing with Mark Knopfler and other like-minded musicians, true commercial success eluded him.
Willy continued to record and play live through the end of 2008, when his health began failing. He had contracted Hepatitis C, and it was during preparation for treatment of that disease that his pancreatic cancer was discovered.
In his honor, I have chosen 1977's "Spanish Stroll" as this week's New Wave for the New Week. RIP, Willy.