37 years ago today the music community suffered a major loss at the unfortunate death of Chris Bell. On December 27th, 1978 the young musician died after crashing his sports car into a light pole, which fell on the car and killed Bell. He was on the way home from band rehearsal and his death came one day before the birthday of Alex Chilton, who Bell had founded the now legendary power pop band Big Star along with bassist Andy Hummel and drummer Jody Stephens.
Chris Bell had long been troubled by deep personal issues and alcohol and drug problems, leading to rocky relationships with his friends and bandmates. He left the band after the release of their 1972 debut album, the perfectly titled #1 Record, widely considered a masterpiece and hugely influential rock album. Bell would go on to cut a solo album that musically followed in a similar vein to Big Star but found the songwriter covering darker material as well as his own complicated relationship with Christianity. I Am the Cosmos was never released during Bell’s lifetime but also stands as a masterpiece today.
It is worth noting that Chris Bell died at the age of 27, which puts him in the infamous 27 Club of musicians who passed away at that young age. Other members include Ron “Pigpen” McKernan, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison, Kurt Cobain, Amy Winehouse and many more.
Celebrate the short but musically brilliant life of Chris Bell with this 1971 footage of Big Star shot by Bell and Andy Hummel set to Big Star’s “Thank You Friends”.