His resume reads like a classic rock bible: The Jeff Beck Group, Rainbow, Michael Schenker Group, Whitesnake, Emerson, Lake & Powell, Black Sabbath, Robert Plant, Gary Moore, Brian May, and many, many more. He is the legendary Cozy Powell, one of the greatest rock drummers in history. Today marks the 14th anniversary of the death of Cozy. I have always felt that because of the death of Kurt Cobain of Nirvana and Layne Staley of Alice In Chains on this day, Cozy gets overlooked when his name should be right there with the two of them.
Powell once said that he drove cars like he drummed – madly – was on the phone to his girlfriend as he hurtled down a highway at 104 miles per hour without wearing his seatbelt. Powell was killed when his powerful black Saab 9000 turbo blew a tire on April 5, 1998.
He was driving up the M4, near Bristol, on his way to visit his girlfriend Sharan Reeve in Cardiff. She heard a “terribly loud noise”, then silence, as she talked to him on the phone. In a statement, Ms Reeve said that Powell had just told her he was having problems finding fifth gear, and hoped the engine would not seize up as he was going so fast. Then she heard him say: “Oh shit”, and the line went silent.
She kept trying to ring him back until she realised something was wrong and contacted the police. Powell, 50, was found to be slightly over the drink-drive limit after the car spun, and the car came to rest on its roof.
Cozy Powell was born in Cirencester, Gloucestershire, England, and started playing drums at age 12 in the school orchestra, thereafter playing along in his spare time to popular singles of the day. Powell started out with a vocal harmony pop band called the Sorcerers, which led Powell to friendships with fellow musicians like Robert Plant and John Bonham (both at the time unknowns in ‘Listen’), future Slade vocalist Noddy Holder, bassist Dave Pegg and a young guitarist called Tony Iommi. The Sorcerers became Youngblood, and released a series of singles in late 1968–69.
From there he was recognized by Jeff Beck, joining his group from 1970-72. After the breakup of that band, he became an in demand session drummer, bashing for the likes of Hot Chocolate, Donovan and Suzi Quatro. He eventually formed ‘Cozy Powell’s Hammer’ in April 1974. The line-up included Bernie Marsden (guitar), Clive Chamen (bass), Don Airey (keyboards) and Frank Aiello (Bedlam) on vocals.
In 1975 was in my opinion, where Cozy started becoming recognized internationally as one of the great drummers in rock. He joined Rainbow with Ritchie Blackmore, staying until 1980, but not until Rainbow headlined the first ever Monsters of Rock show at Castle Donington, England on August 16th. The festival was Powell’s last show with the band.
After Powell left Rainbow, he worked with former Rainbow vocalist Graham Bonnet, For the rest of the 1980s, Powell assumed short-term journeyman roles with a number of major bands — Michael Schenker Group from 1981 to 1982, and Whitesnake from 1982 to 1985. In 1985 he started recording with Phenomena for their first album, which was released in 1986 when he joined up with Keith Emerson and Greg Lake as a member of Emerson, Lake & Powell.
A stint with Gary Moore followed in 1989. His was with Black Sabbath from 1988 to 1991, and again in 1994–1995. Between late 1992 and early 1993, Powell put together an occasional tour using the old band name ‘Cozy Powell’s Hammer’ featuring himself on drums, Neil Murray on bass, Mario Parga on guitar and Tony Martin on vocals. Powell along with Neil Murray were members of Brian May’s band, playing on the ‘Back To The Light’ and ‘Another World’ albums. Cozy played with May opening for Guns N’ Roses on the second American leg of their ‘Use Your Illusion’ tour in 1993. The duo also served a spell with blues guitarist Peter Green in the mid-nineties. Cozy’s last recording session was for Colin Blunstone’s ‘The Light Inside’, alongside Don Airey, which was released shortly after Cozy’s death. Prior to his death in 1998, Cozy had pulled out of a tour with Yngwie Malmsteen due to an injury and was preparing to tour with Brian May. The final solo album by Cozy Powell ‘Especially For You’ was released in 1998 after his death.
The greatness of Cozy Powell cannot be disputed. Cheers to one of the great all time rock drummers!