Today is the birthday of Brad Delp, the late singer of the rock group Boston, who’s acrobatic, high-pitched and almost banshee-style vocals helped propel that band to become one of America’s biggest in 1976, charting a success that followed to the end of the decade, and ultimately becoming one of the most beloved bands of that era.
Delp, who was born on June 12, 1951 in Massachusetts, started his musical career after excitedly watching The Beatles perform on The Ed Sullivan Show in 1964. He picked up the guitar soon after, and became obsessed with The Beatles, even being fortunate enough to have seen them perform live, locally in town during what was to become their final tour, in 1966. In the late 60s, Delp discovered an obscure band by the name of Orpheus, who’s lead singer was a key influence on his vocal style, which became his trademark.
He was working a day job making heating elements for coffeemakers when he met guitarists Tom Scholz and Barry Goudreau. Scholz had been working on demo recordings and needed a singer to complete them, a role which Delp filled. They formed a band called Mothers Milk in the early 1970s, which eventually became Boston. Although many tracks were written years prior, they recorded an album in 1975 which was picked up by Epic Records, and was finally released in August 1976. That debut album, entitled Boston, became an instant smash and went on to sell over 18 million copies. The album was further enhanced by Delp’s layering of his background vocals, similar not in sound to what the English rock group Queen was doing on their music, but in style. Almost all of the album’s 8 songs became some of the most memorable in rock and roll history; “More Than A Feeling,” “Piece of Mind,” “Longtime,” and more became rock radio staples, standards which endure heavy rotated airplay to this very day. Delp even helped pen some of the tunes — he co-wrote “Smokin” with Scholz and was solely responsible for the album’s closing track, “Let Me Take You Home Tonight.”
A second album, titled Don’t Look Back, was released two years later in 1978 and was a big success, although it did not reach the pinnacle that Boston’s debut album did. Scholz’s extremism in terms of perfectionism and going loggerheads with the record company prevented Boston’s third album from being released until almost ten years later. Finally in 1986, the album Third Stage was released. Spawning the minor hit and radio favorite “Amanda,” the album was another success, although by that point, Delp and Scholz were the only original members left in the band.
Another hiatus ensued after Third Stage and Delp kicked around in a band called RTZ during that tenure. Another Boston reunion occurred in the mid 90s, and a release of a greatest hits album in 1997 spawned some new tracks with Delp on vocals. The album Corporate America, released in 2002, was the final Boston release with Delp. Around that time, Delp was also the front man of a Beatles tribute band, called Beatlejuice, in which they performed almost letter-perfect renditions of many of the Fab Four’s greatest songs, yet disdaining the Beatle clothes and look that many other Beatles tribute bands have done and continue to when covering their music.
While on the surface it seemed that Brad Delp had plenty going for him, he had demons inside him and it tragically culminated by his suicide on March 9, 2007 at his home in New Hampshire. Delp was 55 and had left a note behind partially written in French, which translated to “I Have A Lonely Soul.” For a man who gave joy and continues to give joy to millions of people around the world, there was a sad sense of irony and bewilderment by that statement around the musical community when the event happened.
But there is always the music to celebrate the life of this great rock and roll singer. The appeal of Boston continues to blare out of speakers everywhere. The feelgood, muscular approach of the band keeps finding new audiences and keeps the old ones renovated and rejuvenated as the band seems to have escaped the one trick pony footnote reputation of many 1970s rock bands, something certainly attributed to the originality and creativity of Brad Delp.