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TOM RAPP,
1947-2018

Tom Rapp, founder of the beloved underground folk-rock band Pearls Before Swine, died Sunday of cancer at his home in Melbourne, Fla. He was 70.

Inspired by Bob Dylan, The Fugs and Leonard Cohen, Rapp and a group of high school friends in Melbourne made their first record in four days in 1966 and sent it to ESP-Disk, a label known for avant-garde jazz.

One Nation Underground was released in 1967 and received considerable on college and underground radio, reportedly selling more than 200k copies.

A year later, they released the anti-war-themed Balaklava, which led to Reprise signing the band and releasing four PBS albums between 1969 and 1971 with Rapp the only constant among the band membership. They did not tour until 1971.

Rapp’s lyrics were at times cynical and confrontational, and he wrote about Greek myths, elves and magicians as often as he wrote about love and sexual politics. Rapp once suggested their style could be called “transcendental rock.”

While they never had a hit, Bernie Taupin credited Rapp’s 1970 song “Rocket Man” as the inspiration for the hit he wrote with Elton John.

Interest in Rapp and the band was revived when “psych folk” from the 1960s and ‘70s was being celebrated earlier this century;

Rapp went solo in 1972, signing with Blue Thumb, which released two albums—Stardancer and Sunforest—before he left music to study law at Brandeis University. He eventually became a civil rights lawyer.

He returned to performing in 1997, and released a final solo album, A Journal of the Plague Year, in 1999.

 

 

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