American Original Dan Hicks Dies at 74

Dan Hicks, the Arkansas-born musician known for his wide-ranging musical and personal style, the wit and outright humor of his songwriting, and his role in the San Francisco folk and ’60s rock scene, died Saturday in Mill Valley after a long battle with throat and liver cancer. He was 74.

News of his death was posted on his web site and on social media by his wife, Linda “CT” Hicks.

Hicks began his musical journey as a drummer in the seminal 60’s San Francisco rock band The Charlatans before forming his unique and legendary Dan Hicks and the Hot Licks. Having earned a reputation as a true original with his signature eclecticism and humor, Hicks continued to carve his way through a number of genres from proto-psychedelia to western swing and jazz, from Tin Pan Alley to country blues–all the while cultivating his own unique sound.

Through the 60s and 70s there was no one who sounded at all like Dan Hicks and the Hot Licks, and remarkably, so many years later, there still isn’t. Dan signed with Surfdog Records in 1999 and re-assembled the Hot Licks, with a new incarnation releasing the wildly successful Beatin’ the Heatin 2000, featuring collaborations with Bette Midler, Elvis Costello, Tom Waits, Rickie Lee Jones and Brian Setzer.

Late 2003 saw the DVD/CD release of Dan Hicks and The Hot Licks – Featuring An All Star Cast of Friends, a spectacular concert and video project that reunited Hicks with virtually every musician he has ever played and recorded with. Both Mojo and Downbeat magazines rated it “Four Stars…one of the best CDs of 2004.” 2005 brought the next studio release Selected Shorts, featuring special guests Willie Nelson, Jimmy Buffett, Gibby Haynes, Jim Keltner and Van Dyke Parks. It was widely touted as the band’s best CD to date. As The New Yorker magazine remarked, “As great as his early masterpiece Where’s the Money?…truly superb.”

Dan Hicks and the Hot Licks’ tenth studio CD in 2009, Tangled Tales, was produced by Grammy winner Chris Goldsmith (Blind Boys of Alabama). The widely acclaimed release on Surfdog Records featured all-new Dan Hicks original songs and special guests David Grisman, Roy Rogers, and Charlie Musselwhite, among others.

In honor of the legend himself, dozens of stars appeared on stage to celebrate Dan Hicks’ 70th birthday. The DVD/CD Live at Davies (2013) captures the best of the night. It includes several of Dan’s biggest hits as well as some never before released live. Special guests include Rickie Lee Jones, Harry Shearer, Van Dyke Parks, David Grisman, Tuck and Patti, John Hammond and Ramblin’ Jack Elliott among many others.

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