Willy DeVille, 1950-2009
Punk rock soul man Willy DeVille has died of pancreatic cancer in New York at the age of 59. Though his band Mink DevIlle was more bluesy, swinging and sometimes Springsteenesque than most of the groups that congregated at CBGB back in the glory days, he fit comfortably amid its grunge, and glittered in it. He wrote some extraordinary songs and sang them with deep feeling, yet despite this (and an Atlantic Records contract) never had a breakout hit (though he did place a song on the soundtrack of The Princess Bride, for which he received an Academy Award nomination). He was big in Europe, though, and among his fellow musicians (Jack Nitzsche said he was the best singer he ever worked with). DeVille went through all kinds of mess, including his wife's suicide, a car wreck that left him hobbled for years, Hepatitis C and cancer. You might say this is sort of thing that would teach a man the blues, were it not so clear in his music that he had them bone-deep from the start.