Morphine drummer Billy Conway died at 65

Drummer Billy Conway, whose work with revered ’90s band Morphine blended jazz, blues and rock into a critically-acclaimed amalgamation, died on Sunday at the age of 65. Conway’s friend and bandmate Jeffrey Foucault confirmed the musician’s death to Rolling stone, adding that the cause of death was cancer.

“We are devastated to learn that our brother, Morphine drummer Billy Conway, has passed away, eventually succumbing to cancer after a long battle,” wrote the group Vapors of Morphine, whose lineup included Conway and other alumni. members, on Facebook. “Our deepest condolences go out to his family and friends. “

Alongside founding drummer Jerome Deupree, Conway appeared on the band’s first two albums – 1992 Good and the years 1993 Pain remedy before replacing Deupree as a permanent member. (The title song from this latest album with Conway on drums remains one of the band’s most acclaimed songs.) The two sometimes performed live together, with the stripped-down, jazz-influenced sound becoming a subtle, but crucial part. , from the follow-up of the group. its generic.

Morphine’s unique setup eschewed guitars in favor of drums, Dana Colley’s saxophone, and vocalist Mark Sandman’s bass. The band released their first three critically acclaimed albums independently before signing with DreamWorks for 1997. Like swimming, touching the ground of mainstream success but never piercing the way many of their fans expected.

“DreamWorks was a blessing and a curse. It gave us some financial freedoms, but it also put a lot of stress on our process, ”Colley said in 2020.“ Before signing with DreamWorks, we had to deliver what we wanted without having to endure any kind of review. the part of the label. Mark was under a lot of stress to produce a record that would put us in the next league… Mark felt responsible for producing a big hit for them. This led to a lot of conflicting feelings between Mark, Billy and myself… Mark managed to produce the basic tracks that he was ultimately happy with. And we got Billy Conway and Jerome Deupree both playing drums at the same time.

Sandman’s death in 1999 after collapsing on stage near Rome effectively ended the group the band released a posthumous album in 2000 and Conway became a producer at Sandman’s Hi-n-Dry Studio in Cambridge, Massachusetts and performed alongside various musicians.

Prior to Morphine, Conway and Sandman performed together in Boston rock band Treat Her Right, whose “less is more” philosophy inspired their future group. “We took less is more theory and we focused on simplifying everything we did,” Conway said in 2006. “If there were too many chords in the song, we got them. just deleted or skipped that part of the song. We had a high regard for one chord songs and strived to make music simple and emotional like our heroes – Muddy [Waters], [Howlin’] Wolf and Jimi Hendrix.

Conway was diagnosed with bowel cancer and underwent emergency surgery in October 2018, followed by six months of chemotherapy and radiation therapy. “During a winter of enforced stoppage, thanks to the love and generosity of friends, [he] set up a home studio, and over the months, Billy finished the songs he had written for years in lodges, vans and hotels around the world, ”notes his label, Crazy View Records, which he has written for years. founded with musician and partner Laurie Sargent, said. His first solo album, Inside Outside, was released in 2020, the same year Conway found out the cancer had spread to his liver.

Since 2013, Conway has performed with Foucault, an American musician who wrote a tribute / request for financial aid on Conway’s behalf in 2020 following the revelation of Conway’s disease.

“Every day on the road together, a master class on how to move around the world with a little grace, humility and simple kindness,” Foucault wrote. “People tend to like each other better around Billy. No one has ever said that about me, but when people are with Billy, they feel like someone they instinctively love and respect only sees the best.

Foucault went on to note “Conway’s generous spirit, his in-depth knowledge and his fierce willingness to give the best of himself in music; his mastery of his instrument, and the simple dignity that he brings to the act of playing.

Conway did not hesitate to face his illness on Inside Outside. On the opening track “Get Well” he sang, “Hope we can all get better. I have to keep playing music. I have to dance, I have to dance until you die.

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